Two Indian journalists barred from returning to China amid tensions
Anshuman Mishra and Ananth Krishnan were informed by Chinese officials that they should not return to China as their visas were frozen.
China has barred two Indian journalists from returning to Beijing, weeks after India asked a Chinese journalist to leave the country , people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
State-run Prasar Bharati’s representative in Beijing, Anshuman Mishra, and The Hindu’s correspondent, Ananth Krishnan, were informed by Chinese officials that they should not return to China as their visas were frozen, the people said. Both Mishra and Krishnan had recently come to India for personal reasons.
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The move followed the Indian side informing a New Delhi-based correspondent of state-run Xinhua news agency last month that his Indian visa would not be renewed. The Xinhua correspondent was asked to return to China by March 31 and has since gone back, the people said.
Different reasons were given for the decision to ask the Xinhua correspondent to return to China, with some people saying it was done because he had been in India for too long – having done a stint of about six years – and others saying it was because he had indulged in activities beyond his journalistic brief.
There was no official word on the developments from the Indian side.
The two remaining Indian journalists in Beijing – KJM Varma of Press Trust of India (PTI) and Sutirtho Patranobis of Hindustan Times – were told by officials of China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday that they could stay on for now.
The people cited above said the remaining Indian journalists were not expected to be allowed back into China if they leave the country. The people added that steps could also be taken against them if the Indian side failed to reciprocate on the issue of Chinese journalists posted in India.
Much will depend on an upcoming meeting between officials of China’s foreign ministry and a representative of the Indian embassy in Beijing to discuss the issue, the people said.
The people further said there were complaints from both sides about the handling of issues related to journalists. The people said it was “factually incorrect” to suggest that India’s actions triggered a response from Chinese authorities. To be sure, Indian journalists posted in China have managed to extend their visas after meeting Chinese foreign ministry officials before the process.
The Hindu’s correspondent was stopped at the airport and questioned by Chinese authorities for almost 30 minutes while he was returning to India on March 31, the people added.
A few years ago, there were six Indian journalists working in Beijing but this number subsequently came down to four. Over the past few years, a handful of Indian journalists have also been given fellowships by Chinese authorities that allowed them to live in China and report for their media organisations.
The number of Chinese journalists in India, all working for state-run organisations, was at a high of 14 about seven years ago. In July 2016, India expelled three journalists from Xinhua, including the organisation’s bureau chiefs in New Delhi and Mumbai, after they came under the “adverse attention of security agencies” for allegedly indulging in activities beyond their journalistic brief.
Since then, the number of Chinese journalists in India has continued to dwindle. The visa of another Chinese journalist working in India was not renewed in 2021. Several of them left India during the Covid-19 pandemic and their organisations didn’t post anyone to replace them, the people said. It is understood that there is currently only one Chinese journalist in India.