Before heading back to New York City for the holidays, Hannah Beech joked with friends in China that she might not be back. That’s because once again, the renewal of her yearly journalist visa is coming down to the New Year’s Eve wire.
Beech has had a number of rough rides on that front since she began covering the China beat in the early 2000s. Two years ago, her coverage of self-immolating Tibetan monks led to bureaucratic stalling and a stern lecture. Last year, she was reprimanded for using the wrong kind of pen.
But as Beech notes in her highly informative piece about the past and present challenges of being a foreign journalist in China, nothing compares to the visa renewal process of 2003:
The Foreign Ministry called in a Chinese journalism professor to deliver many hours of lectures to me on media ethics. They had reviewed my CV and discovered that I had never attended journalism school.
This academic deficiency, I was told, must have accounted for my bullheaded attempts to uncover SARS cases in Shanghai, even as the local government pretended none existed.
Wow. At press time, Beech does not yet have her visa renewed for 2014 but expects it to be. However, if officials read her December 11 item, the process may well involve another lecture.
Update (December 17):
According to a report in the Irish Times, it’s not looking good for Beech, her NYT China colleagues and Bloomberg News staffers stationed in the country.