BEIJING -- Al Jazeera is closing it English-language Beijing bureau after the departure of Melissa Chan, a hard-hitting reporter who is the first accredited correspondent to be kicked out of China since 1998, the network said Tuesday.
Chan, who had tangled frequently with uncover police to expose illegal jails and land confiscations, flew out of Beijing on Monday night after authorities refused to renew her visa.
The incident underscores the deterioration of the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the press.
"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 Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents Club of China said in a statement, which called the government’s action tantamount to expelling Chan.
Chan, 31, is from Walnut, Calif. Fluent in Mandarin, she would frequently tangle with police, sometimes brandishing a copy of Chinese statutes giving reporters the right to cover stories.
Chan had been working on temporary credentials since the end of the last year when the government refused what should have been a routine renewal request. Replacement correspondents for Al Jazeera have not been approved, forcing the Qatar-based network to close its English service here. The Arabic service will not be impacted.
Salah Negm, director of news at Al Jazeera English said in a statement Monday: "We hope China appreciates the integrity of our news coverage and our journalism. We value this journalist integrity in our coverage of all countries in the world.... Al Jazeera Media Network will continue to work with the Chinese authorities in order to reopen our Beijing bureau."
Chan has been accepted into the Knight Fellowship at Stanford University and will return to Al Jazeera afterward, she said in a message on her Twitter account.
The last time China kicked out correspondents was 1998 when both a Japanese and a German reporter were expelled in separate cases in which they were accused of obtaining secret documents.
-- Barbara Demick