China has prevented two Indian journalists from returning to Beijing after India requested a Chinese journalist to leave, according to sources.
Prasar Bharati’s Anshuman Mishra and The Hindu’s Ananth Krishnan were told by Chinese officials that their visas were frozen and they couldn't return to China, after they had come back to India for personal reasons.
Last month, the Indian government had informed a New Delhi-based correspondent of Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency that his Indian visa would not be renewed, resulting in his return to China by 31 March.
While a few argue that his extended stay of six years in India was the reason he was asked to leave, some believe that his involvement in activities beyond his journalistic brief was a contributing factor.
K J M Varma of the Press Trust of India and Sutirtho Patranobis of Hindustan Times have been told by China's foreign ministry that they could remain in Beijing for the time being.
The outcome of talks between China's foreign ministry and a representative from the Indian embassy in Beijing will determine the next course of action.
According to sources, there were grievances from both parties regarding the handling of journalist-related issues.
The correspondent for The Hindu was interrogated by Chinese authorities for nearly half an hour at the airport before his return to India on 31 March.
Years ago, six Indian journalists were working in Beijing, but the number came down to four over time. Chinese authorities have given fellowships to some Indian journalists in recent years, enabling them to reside and file reports for their media outlets.
Seven years ago, there were 14 Chinese journalists in India, all working for state-run organisations. However, in July 2016, three journalists from Xinhua got expelled, including bureau chiefs in New Delhi and Mumbai. They were reportedly engaged in activities other than their journalistic duties and had drawn the "adverse attention of security agencies."
The numbers have since gone down further. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of them left India and were not replaced by their organisations.
Currently, there is reportedly only one Chinese journalist in India.
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