Photo by Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images.
Al Jazeera English's China bureau is no more.
China officials have expelled journalist Melissa Chan, the media outlet's lone reporter stationed there, and refused to allow a replacement, forcing the station to shutter its English-language bureau in Beijing, the network announced Tuesday.
Chan, an American journalist, was denied a renewal of her press credentials and visa, marking the first time in nearly a decade and a half that China has sent a foreign journalist packing. Chan had been the Qatar-based news organization's correspondent since 2007.
It remains unclear what exactly Chan did to upset Chinese officials. A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry offered this vague quote in response to questions about her expulsion (via the BBC): "We stress that everybody must abide by Chinese laws and regulations and must abide by their professional ethics."
As the Washington Post reminds us, China often threatens journalists with threats of expulsion as an intimidation tactic, but rarely follows through. Most recently, Beijing police threatened to revoke visas for a handful of reporters who tried to enter the hospital where dissident Chen Guangcheng was receiving medical treatment after an escape from house arrest.
The Foreign Correspondent's Club of China released a statement Tuesday condemning the expulsion, noting Al Jazeera is likely facing some backlash from a documentary they aired recently on China's prison system. Chen was not involved in that documentary. "This is the most extreme example of a recent pattern of using journalist visas in an attempt to censor and intimidate foreign correspondents in China," the group said in the statement, adding that the expulsion indicated "a grave threat to foreign reporters’ ability to work in China."
Al Jazeera's Arabic bureau in the country was unaffected by the expulsion.