January 1, 2013 · 0 Comments
Above: China’s premier Wen Jiabao, left, and his family were critical of the Times’ coverage in October. (Photograph: Feng Li/Getty Images)
By Adam Gabbatt:
Jill Abramson, the Times’ executive editor, said reporter Chris Buckley had been “forced to relocate” outside China despite the newspaper’s repeated attempts to renew his visa.
In October the newspaper published a report by David Barboza which alleged relatives of Wen had controlled some $2.7bn in assets. China blocked access to the Chinese and English-language versions of the newspaper after the report was published.
In her statement on Monday, Abramson confirmed that Buckley, who has reported from China for 12 years, had left the country. She added that Times journalist Phil Pan, who similarly has worked in China for several years, is also waiting to have his visa renewed.
“I regret that Chris Buckley has been forced to relocate outside of China despite our repeated requests to renew his journalist visa,” Abramson said.
“I hope the Chinese authorities will issue him a new visa as soon as possible and allow Chris and his family to return to Beijing. I also hope that Phil Pan, whose application for journalist credentials has been pending for many months, will also be issued a visa to serve as our bureau chief in Beijing.”
Buckley, who is Australian, has lived in China for 15 years, spending 12 of those as a reporter, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. He flew out of Beijing at 6.30pm on Monday, the Herald said, accompanied by his wife and 12-year-old daughter. Pan is the Times’s Beijing bureau chief and previously reported for the Washington Post.
China expressed its displeasure with the Times the day after Barboza’s report was published in October. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the piece ”smears China’s name and has ulterior motives”, later insisting that the China’s critics were attempting to destabilise the country and were “doomed to failure”.
Lawyers for Wen Jiabao’s family denied reports of their riches as untrue in October. “Some of Wen Jiabao’s family members have not engaged in business activities. Some were engaged in business activities, but they did not carry out any illegal business activity. They do not hold shares of any companies,” the statement said. In China it is unusual for the family of a senior leader to comment publicly on media reports, perhaps an indication of the depth of feeling over the accusations.
The Times report analysed corporate and regulatory records and found that members of the Wen family, including the premier’s mother, had valuable investments in companies in China and in some cases ran companies that were awarded government contracts.