“Are you annoyed [that you were kept out of the press conference]?” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying asked. She then paused before adding, “If so, then work harder so that you are allowed to attend next year.”
A Sankei Shimbun reporter was kept out of the press conference held with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People on March 15. A “letter of invitation” is required in order to attend, but China refused to provide a letter to the Sankei—the only Japanese press outlet which did not receive one. We have already reported on our having filed a written protest with the Chinese government.
At the special Foreign Ministry press conference held the next day, the Sankei Shimbun asked why our reporter was denied entry to the Li Keqiang event. “Does the refusal have anything to do with the Sankei’s daily reporting on Chinese affairs?” we asked.
Spokesperson Hua replied, “Several thousand reporters from China and abroad participated in journalistic activities during the National People’s Congress. The particular auditorium where the press conference was held accommodated approximately 1000 people. I believe that the Sankei was not the only outlet which was unable to participate in the conference.”
When the Sankei reporter followed up by pointing out that there were empty seats in the auditorium, Hua cut off the questioning by saying that if we found it annoying to be refused entry to the press conference, then we should work harder to be permitted entry next year.
With this, we finally arrive at the Chinese government’s true intentions. But how, exactly, are we expected to “work harder”? Unlike the Chinese media, the foreign press are not the “vocal chords of the Chinese Communist Party”.
Let Spokesperson Hua make no mistake. We are not “annoyed”. We are appalled and indignant at such unwarranted harassment.
As far as other foreign media outlets are concerned, what happened to the Sankei reporter is not an isolated incident, but oppression which affects everyone.
The odd “Chinese model” and “Chinese rules” are hardly confined to domestic Chinese affairs. China is now extending its influence and hegemony around the world. The Sankei Shimbun is far from the only organization which views this as a problem.
Kinya Fujimoto is the Sankei Shimbun Beijing Bureau Chief