China allows journalists to apply for visas

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BEIJING -- Several Western journalists facing expulsion from China were given renewed press cards Thursday by the Chinese government, allowing them to apply for visas to remain in the country.

The move appears to end a weeks-long standoff between the government and journalists that included a personal appeal by Vice President Joe Biden to China's president this month. Reporters for The New York Times, Bloomberg News and other organizations were facing the loss of their Chinese visas around the end of December, at which point they and their families would be forced to leave the country.

While most reporters at the Times and Bloomberg still do not have visas, getting their press credentials removes a main impediment to their applications. All members of Bloomberg's foreign staff in China, but only some at the Times, got press cards Thursday, both organizations said.

A handful of Times journalists have not received press cards and thus continue to face the prospect of being forced to leave, said journalists in Beijing working on their behalf. Even those who have press cards are not considering themselves safe from expulsion until visas are physically stamped into their passport, several journalists said.

"We are in contact with Chinese officials and remain hopeful that our resident journalists in the country will be issued visas that will allow them to continue to work there," Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.

The Washington Post, which has two correspondents in China, has a visa for one. The other received his press card Thursday and was able to apply for a visa.

China has long denied or held up visas to retaliate for coverage critical of Communist Party officials. U.S. reporters say the practice has grown more intense under President Xi Jinping, who took office in March. This year, news organizations, rather than individual reporters, faced expulsion threats, journalists said.


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