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(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today calls on Chinese authorities to immediately renew the visa and press credentials of Melissa Chan, an Al-Jazeera English reporter who was expelled from China, forcing the news network to close its Beijing bureau.
"The expulsion of Melissa Chan is part of a wider pattern of attempted intimidation of foreign journalists, which prevents them from reporting on subjects seen as 'sensitive' by the authorities," said Corinna-Barbara Francis, Amnesty International's China researcher. "International journalists reporting from China have had to self-censor for years in order to stay in the country. But forcing Al-Jazeera to close down its Beijing bureau is a dangerous escalation, which does not bode well for the future of press reporting in China."
Chan is reportedly the first accredited foreign journalist to have her press credentials and visa revoked since 1998, when Yukihisa Nakatsu of Yomiuiri Shimbun and Juergen Kremb of Der Spiegel were expelled. China's foreign ministry has not given any explanation for the decision not to extend her documents.
Chan has covered several controversial stories from China, including reports on the imprisonment of petitioners -- individuals who attempt to use traditional rights to report cases of personal injustice directly to authorities -- in unofficial "black jails" and the illegal seizures of farmland.
Al-Jazeera English has voiced its disappointment at the situation and says it will continue to request a presence in China.
During the recent case of activist Chen Guangcheng and his six-day stay in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, several foreign journalists were threatened with visa revocation for allegedly entering the hospital parking lot where Chen is receiving medical care.
"If the Chinese authorities have a commitment to freedom of expression, they must stop attempting to muzzle journalists through these punitive measures and immediately renew Melissa Chan's visa and allow Al-Jazeera English to continue operating in the country," added Francis.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.