Al-Jazeera Beijing bureau closed after reporter removed

Chinese authorities expel journalist after a five year stint.

Al-Jazeera Beijing bureau closed after reporter removed
Photo: Getty Images

Al-Jazeera English has closed its Beijing bureau after China refused to renew the credentials of one of its correspondents, Melissa Chan.

It is the first expulsion of a journalist from China since 1998. A replacement journalist has also been rejected by the authorities.

Al-Jazeera issued a statement which expressed disappointment at China's decision. Salah Negm , director of news, said "We are committed to our coverage of China. Just as China news services cover the world freely we would expect that same freedom in China for any Al Jazeera journalist."

The move has attracted widespread criticism from journalist rights organisations.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) said they were 'appalled' by the decision. They said "[China] have 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."

Melissa Chan had been working in China for five years for Al-Jazeera, and is a member of the FCCC board.  

Over the last weekend, several journalists in China were questioned by police over allegedly breaking rules in their reportage of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who was recently admitted to hospital in Beijing for treatment following his house arrest and subsequent escape.

Chan was not one of those called in, but was this year given only temporary press credentials follwed by a short extension, unlike the usual one year press visa. She has now left China.

It is often difficult for journalists to get press accreditation in China, as they often cover stories that are censored by the Chinese government. According to Al-Jazeera, Chan has covered stories about the economy, domestic politics, foreign policy, the environment, social justice, labour rights and human rights during her stint in China.