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  • The U.S. slapped new visa restrictions on Chinese journalists working in the country as the feud between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus seeps into a burgeoning media war.
  • Chinese journalists working for non-American news outlets would only be able to obtain 90-day work visas

(CNB News) – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Friday that Chinese journalists working for non-American news outlets would only be able to obtain 90-day work visas, a reversal from the open-ended visas for which they’d previously qualified. The journalists will be able to apply for 90-day extensions.

The move, which the DHS said came in retaliation for actions against American outlets, raises the prospects of a protracted back-and-forth over media access in the U.S. and China.

The Chinese government in March announced that it was expelling reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, saying that the move was “entirely necessary and reciprocal.”

The expulsion came in response to an announcement from American officials that only 100 Chinese workers employed by five state-controlled Chinese news organizations could work in the United States, down from 160.

“Based on the treatment by the [People’s Republic of China (PRC)] of foreign journalists, including U.S. citizens, DHS has determined that the PRC is not treating journalists in a manner that admitting … visa holders for the duration of status is sufficiently reciprocal to the treatment accorded by the PRC to U.S. journalists or in alignment with U.S. foreign policy,” DHS said in its announcement.

The DHS added that China’s March expulsions marked “an escalation of hostile measures targeting a free press within its borders” and noted that American journalists had seen their visas granted for shorter and shorter amounts of time after writing articles critical of the Chinese government.

The drawn out battle over reporters’ access has emerged as a top proxy for diplomatic clashes between Washington and Beijing over where the blame should lie for the coronavirus’s spread.

President Trump and other top officials have repeatedly railed against the Chinese government, claiming it downplayed the extent of the initial outbreak, and some have even said the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan. Chinese officials have responded that the claims are baseless and levied unproven allegations of their own that the coronavirus originated in the U.S.

Trump and Republicans have said the country should be able to seek damages from China over the death toll and economic fallout in the U.S., though some Democrats say such talk is meant to distract from the White House’s botched response to the pandemic.

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