Al-Jazeera Forced To Close Its Beijing Bureau [UPDATE]
Al-Jazeera’s China correspondent, Melissa Chan, was denied a visa extension and scheduled to leave the country last night, marking the end of the Qatar-based company’s Beijing bureau. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, of which Chan was a board member, was quick to issue a statement:
Chinese officials had expressed anger at a documentary the channel aired last November. Melissa Chan did not even play a part in making that documentary. They have also expressed unhappiness with the general editorial content on Al Jazeera English and accused Ms Chan of violating rules and regulations that they have not specified…. The FCCC views this matter as a grave threat to foreign reporters’ ability to work in China.
“General editorial content” may refer to Chan’s rather sensationalistic foray into a “black jail” to “seek answers” in March, or any of several stories that, individually, may be ignored by relevant authorities, but taken together form an alarming pattern. Many of Chan’s pieces originated from the countryside and offered a glimpse into an aspect of Chinese society — what someone who has never visited the country might call the “real China” — that authorities consider to be its Igor, best locked away during dinner parties. Chan gave Igor a voice, and the government obviously didn’t like what it heard.
On a related note, the best Al-Jazeera piece I remember was a series called Faces of China. Chan’s name isn’t associated with the project (not that I can find, anyway), but now seems like a fine moment to revisit it anyway.
UPDATE, 2:23 pm: Here’s the Al-Jazeera documentary that Chan had nothing to do with that offended the Chinese authorities. It’s about
the slave trade China’s prisons, the face of which is Homer Simpson… and overall it’s a pretty embarrassing effort more befitting of VICE than a news network: