India has expelled three journalists of the Chinese official news agency, Xinhua, by refusing to renew their visas to work in the country, a move that could worsen the already strained relations between the two countries.
The three journalists have been ordered to leave India by July 31. Journalists Wu Qiang and Lu Tang head Xinhua’s bureau in New Delhi and Mumbai respectively.
The third, She Yonggang, is a reporter based in Mumbai.
Lu Tang has an India connect as she studied in universities at New Delhi and Gujarat. She graduated in International Relations from New Delhi’s Jawahar Lal Nehru University.
No official reason was given for the Indian government’s decision, but sources said the three had come under the “adverse attention of security agencies” for allegedly indulging in activities beyond their journalistic brief.
The sources, however, said the action did not imply that Xinhua journalists are not welcome in India. “The agency can replace them with others. There is nothing here to construe that Xinhua has to wind up its news operations in India,” a source said.
HT reached out to Xinhua in Beijing but an official said nobody could be immediately contacted for a comment.
Commenting on the expulsion, Mohan Guruswamy, chairman of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, said that not extending visas of journalists is a needless aggravation.
He posted his comments on Facebook.
“Lu Tang, whom many of you FB users might recognise and who has done so much to provide China’s opinion makers with a better understanding of India is among the three Chinese journalists not to get their work visas extended,” he wrote on the Chinese correspondent’s Facebook wall. “We can now expect some tit for tat for no rhyme or reason. If Indian scribes are turned out of China we too will lose our eyes and ears in that country. Not extending visas of journalists is a needless aggravation. I am sure the [Ministry of External Affairs] would be clueless about this as this is now under the exclusive purview of the largely clueless Ministry of Home Affairs.”
Ranjit Kalha, a former secretary in the MEA said that the move seems to have been “done without thinking through [the] outcome,” reported Thewire.in.
The decision comes at a time when relations between New Delhi and Beijing have been under strain following China’s refusal last month to back India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Beijing has been wary of New Delhi’s growing bonhomie with Washington.
Non-renewal of visas is a common practice followed by governments to expel foreign journalists whose writing is seen as critical of official policy.
In December, China expelled a French journalist for writing a piece questioning the government’s handling of the situation in the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), describing the reporting as fabricated.
The mode of expulsion was similar: The journalist’s visa wasn’t renewed.
Wu has been working in India for seven years while the other two were posted in Mumbai last year. Xinhua works directly under the jurisdiction of the State Council, or the Chinese Cabinet, headed by Premier Li Keqiang.
The two countries have a history of delaying granting of journalist visas, but this is possibly the first time that an extension or renewal of visas has been denied.
The journalists’ visas had expired earlier this year but they were asked to wait. However, their passports were returned to them without the visa, effectively ensuring that they could not move out of the cities of residence.
On July 14, all three were informed that they had to leave India by July 31 as their visas will not be renewed.
Analysts said the possibility of China carrying out tit-for-tat expulsions of Indian-journalists could not be ruled out.
Five Indian journalists work out of Beijing at present. Additionally, a number of Indians work for China’s English state media like China Central Television, China Daily and China Radio International.
Two more New Delhi-based Indian journalists are currently on a fellowship to China at the invitation of the communist government.
(With inputs from Jayanth Jacob in New Delhi)