Last fall, three Republican congressmen, complaining about constraints on U.S. media expansion in China, introduced the Chinese Media Reciprocity Act, which would limit the number of visas the State Department is permitted to issue to journalists working for Chinese state media. The bill is currently with the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration policy and enforcement.
There has been a sharp rise in the number of Chinese journalists, nearly all employees of state media, working in the United States at a time when Beijing has been delaying or rejecting applications by journalists for U.S. media wishing to work in China. The Voice of America, which gets government funding and falls under the supervision of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a bipartisan panel, has been waiting for more than three years to expand its Beijing bureau from two to four reporters.
“There is a very alarming disparity between the number of Chinese state media workers whom we grant visas to and the number of visas the Chinese grant to their American counterparts,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), one of the sponsors of the proposed legislation, said when the bill was introduced.
Rohrabacher said that during the 2010 fiscal year, about 650 Chinese citizens working for party-controlled news organizations entered the United States on journalism visas, while only two American journalists working under the Broadcasting Board of Governors had received permission to work in China. Tara Setmayer, a spokeswoman for the congressman, said Tuesday that reciprocity has not improved since then.
Also Tuesday, the Associated Press quoted Chen, the rights activist, as saying that the Chinese government had quietly promised him that it will investigate abuses he says he and his family suffered at the hands of local authorities.
Chen told the AP on Monday that an official has visited him in his Beijing hospital four times, including to take a statement last Thursday.
“After he took my statement, he said they would launch an investigation as long as there are facts, and that if there are facts about the illegal actions, then the issue definitely would be openly addressed,” Chen said.
Correspondent Andrew Higgins in Hong Kong and staff writer William Wan in Washington contributed to this report.