WH 'deeply concerned' about reporter's expulsion from China

The White House said Thursday it was "deeply concerned" after reports that a Beijing-based reporter for The New York Times was expelled from China following the newspaper's coverage of high-level corruption in the communist nation.

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"The United States is deeply concerned that foreign journalists in China continue to face restrictions that impede their ability to do their jobs, including extended delays in processing journalist visas, restrictions on travel to certain locations deemed 'sensitive' by Chinese authorities and, in some cases, violence at the hands of local authorities," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

"These restrictions and treatment are not consistent with freedom of the press — and stand in stark contrast with U.S. treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists," he added.

Chinese officials did not give a reason why they denied Austin Ramzy a visa to work in the country, but it's widely assumed that the documentation was denied in retaliation for the paper's coverage of corruption within the Communist Party. The Times won a Pulitzer in 2012 for its coverage of then-Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Ramzy is the third journalist for the paper to be denied a visa in 18 months.

Carney said the White House was "disappointed" by the move and had raised concerns about the treatment of journalists and media organizations "repeatedly and at the highest levels."

"Our two countries should be expanding media exchanges to enhance mutual understanding and trust, not restricting the ability of journalists to do their work," Carney said. "We urge China to commit to timely visa and credentialing decisions for foreign journalists, unblock U.S. media websites, and eliminate other restrictions that impede the ability of journalists to practice their profession. Around the world, the United States strongly supports universal rights and fundamental freedoms — central among them freedom of speech and freedom of the press."

Ramzy tweeted that he hoped he could "return soon" to China before boarding a plane to leave the country.

"Heading out shortly and wanted to say thanks for all the kind thoughts. Sad to be leaving Beijing," he said.