Proposed Law Could Spark a U.S.-China war over Visas for Journalists


Congress is considering a bill that would revoke the visas of nearly all the 800 or so Chinese journalists in the U.S.

It would require that Chinese journalists’ U.S. visas be revoked so that there are no more than the number of Chinese visas issued U.S. government-employed journalists, which is currently exactly two.

The Chinese Media Reciprocity Act (H.R. 2899) is sponsored by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from southern California.

At a June 20 hearing, Congressman Rohrabacher testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement that the Act seeks to dissuade the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from restricting and obstructing foreign journalists and news in China.

The watchdog group Reporters without Borders ranks China 174 out of 179 countries in its 2011-2012 worldwide index of press freedom.

But some American journalists have voiced concerns that the proposed law would cast doubt on America’s commitment to freedom of the press and risk sparking a visa war with China, which could result in the expulsion of Americans working for commercial media in China and impair American press coverage of China.

My own take is that the proposed law is unnecessary because current law already gives the State Department the power to refuse to issue visas to journalists whose countries are unwilling to reciprocate.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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