China denies targeting Bloomberg after reporter blocked

AFP-JIJI

Beijing denied Tuesday it was targeting the Bloomberg news agency by blocking one of its reporters from a joint event with Premier Li Keqiang and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Bloomberg’s website has been blocked in China since it reported last year on the wealth of President Xi Jinping’s family, and it has recently been embroiled in controversy over an unpublished article about a tycoon’s links to senior Communist Party figures.

Robert Hutton, a U.K.-based Bloomberg reporter traveling as part of the entourage accompanying Cameron on his visit to China, was told at the last minute he would not be able to attend Monday’s joint Cameron-Li press statement.

Hutton was blocked from the event — where no questions were taken — because Chinese officials believed his participation “would not be appropriate,” according to multiple reports.

China’s one-party state keeps tight restrictions on domestic media, and authorities stress that foreign news organizations are subject to Chinese law within the country.

Cameron personally raised the matter of the reporter’s exclusion later Monday after a dinner with Xi, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Cameron’s office said in a statement that before the event, it “raised our concerns at senior levels and made clear it would be completely inappropriate to exclude journalists from the press statements.”

“When we heard what had happened today we expressed our deep concern to senior Chinese officials about journalists being blocked,” it added.

China’s Foreign Ministry denied that Bloomberg had been intentionally targeted.

“The related press conference should first satisfy the needs of the journalists from China and the U.K.,” spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.

“Based on that, we try our best to satisfy the needs of other journalists, because the site is limited there, and the arrangements we made in accordance with such requirements were no different from before,” he added.

Separately, Fortune Magazine reported Tuesday that Chinese authorities had made unannounced “inspections” of Bloomberg’s Beijing and Shanghai bureaus last week.

One of the officials demanded an apology for a comment reportedly made by Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler comparing the Chinese government to Nazi Germany, according to Fortune.

Belina Tan, Bloomberg’s Asia-Pacific spokeswoman, declined to comment on either incident.

Asked about the Fortune report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong did not directly address the issue, saying, “China has been dealing with issues concerning foreign journalists and foreign media reporting in China in accordance with law and regulations.”

Last month, a Hong Kong-based Bloomberg reporter left the company after The New York Times reported management decided to scrap an article about a Chinese tycoon and his ties to the families of Communist Party leaders.

Managers were said to be concerned the article could jeopardize the news service’s coverage of China.

According to The New York Times, sales of subscriptions to Bloomberg’s terminals, which cost more than $20,000 annually, have “dropped significantly” over the past year in mainland China.