HONG KONG – Several top U.S. and Chinese government officials are set to announce Saturday a renewed partnership on protecting journalists in the world’s most populous countries.
State media said on Saturday that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be part of a group of senior government officials from both countries discussing changes to the conditions that media face in their respective countries.
The meeting comes as Chinese authorities have cracked down on Internet content in recent weeks, detaining dozens of people and subjecting the internet to extensive curbs, including relabeling websites and hard-to-find characters. The moves come as foreign companies have largely avoided doing business in China and as President Donald Trump has set priorities that have put U.S. companies in a pariah role in the country, which considers them competitors and risks violating Chinese laws.
Wang was supposed to be attending an annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Danang, Vietnam, but canceled his trip there last week. On Saturday, he will instead meet U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington, according to an official from the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C.
The State Department announced the meetings on Friday, and the two officials were supposed to meet Saturday at a Sheraton Hotel in Washington.
On Saturday, the U.S. will also hold a gathering for U.S. and Chinese government agencies to share information about rules and standards in China. The meeting, a first for both countries, comes at a time when Beijing has imposed restrictions on U.S. and other foreign companies operating in China. U.S. officials say the talks are meant to improve transparency.
“Increased transparency about foreign investment and foreign governments’ protection of journalists should help create a safer environment for journalists both in China and abroad,” said Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman.
One of the changes is to introduce greater transparency into China’s treatment of foreign journalists. In recent months, foreign reporters working in China have reported on the difficulty of obtaining visas, making it difficult to do what many work in countries like the United States and Australia to do – cover a political convention or an important trial.
In early June, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that “Foreign media do not see or hear things” about the situation in China, and “they cannot create a distorted picture.”
The State Department has responded that in its negotiations with China on media matters, it presses for progress on transparency and the ability of foreign journalists to obtain visas, as well as freedom of movement.
Other changes to the program, officially called the China-U.S. Media Bureau Dialogue Group, will also address incidents of abuse of Chinese journalists by Chinese authorities, and reports of state media bias toward the Chinese government, the two countries said.
The U.S. has resisted helping censor foreign media under its Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998, but it had generally offered the protection of its protection of free speech to journalists in China.
The latter is a controversial rule, in part because of the silence of press freedom groups in Beijing and some diplomats over the Chinese government crackdown on state media coverage since Trump took office. Chinese authorities have detained dozens of people accused of insulting the government in information posted online. In some cases, they have repeatedly demanded payment for critical posts as punishment.