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September 21, 2017

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China hits back at US in row over NYT reporter's departure

BEIJING--China on Friday hit back at Washington's condemnation of its treatment of foreign journalists, as tensions rise over a New York Times reporter who left Beijing after not receiving a visa.

The case of reporter Austin Ramzy, who departed Beijing for Taipei on Thursday, has sparked protests from the White House and elsewhere that China is seeking to retaliate against news organizations such as the Times and financial news agency Bloomberg that have published investigations into the family wealth and connections of its top leaders.

"China does not accept the unjustifiable accusations by the U.S. side, and demands the U.S. side to respect facts and take cautious words and acts," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement reported Friday by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Hong added Washington must behave in a way that was more "conducive to media exchanges and mutual trust between the two countries".

Hong's sharp retort came after the White House said it was "deeply concerned that foreign journalists in China continue to face restrictions" following Ramzy's departure for Taipei, where he will report while continuing to seek a visa for mainland China.

Ramzy, who had been based in China for more than six years, left Time magazine in mid-2013 to work for the New York Times.

'Forced out'

But Chinese officials had not yet granted him a new visa before his previous one expired, effectively obliging him to leave Beijing.

"China is forcing out Austin Ramzy today after 6.5 years," Times China correspondent Ed Wong wrote Thursday on Twitter.

Ramzy confirmed his arrival in Taipei via Twitter Thursday night. In an earlier message, he wrote: "Sad to be leaving Beijing. Hope I can return soon."

Ramzy's departure comes a month after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden raised the issue of China's treatment of foreign journalists privately with Chinese leaders during a visit to Beijing.

Beijing has blocked the websites of both the Times and Bloomberg after they published investigations in 2012 into the family wealth of former premier Wen Jiabao and President Xi Jinping, respectively.

Authorities also reportedly conducted unannounced "inspections" of Bloomberg's offices in Beijing and Shanghai last month and demanded an apology from its editor-in-chief amid a controversy over an unpublished article on the government ties of a Chinese billionaire.

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