File photo: A Chinese flag flutters at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China October 25, 2019. Photograph:( Reuters )
Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said at least 82 per cent journalists had experienced interference, harassment or violence while reporting
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC) in a report said that government was planning to send back more foreign journalists after row over three Wall Street Journal reporters in Beijing were sent back over a headline calling China the "real sick man of Asia".
"Since 2013, when Xi Jinping's ascension to power was completed, China has forced out nine foreign journalists, either through outright expulsion or by non-renewal of visas. The FCCC fears that China is preparing to expel more journalists," the group said.
The press body said that journalists were being threatened with the government intimidating the press fraternity by using it as a weapon "like never before".
"Chinese authorities are using visas as weapons against the foreign press like never before, expanding their deployment of a long-time intimidation tactic as working conditions for foreign journalists in China markedly deteriorated in 2019," it said.
However, China's foreign ministry said: "What happened to the Wall Street Journal journalists was just an independent case."
"There are over 600 foreign journalists stationed in China and they don't need to worry about their reporting in China as long as they observe Chinese laws and regulations," China's foreign ministry spokesman said.
The FCCC said at least 82 per cent journalists had experienced interference, harassment or violence while reporting.
"As China reaches new heights of economic influence, it has shown a growing willingness to use its considerable state power to suppress factual reporting that does not fit with the global image it seeks to present," the report said.
"As scrutiny is intensifying toward China, it is more important than ever for foreign media to have freedom to report and cover the country," the report added.
The press body said the ability of foreign journalists based in China is crucial for the news coverage about the country while waring that "hostility toward foreign press is now so pervasive that the most basic elements of journalism are often frustrated in China".