By HUI JIA
BEIJING (China Daily Show) – Nearly two dozen foreign correspondents are contemplating a grim holiday season this year, as China refuses any new visas – effectively expelling them from the country.
Peter Whitman, a stalwart correspondent with the New York Times for over 12 years, says his holiday plans are potentially in ruins.
“Unless they change their minds in the next week, I’m looking at celebrating Christmas in my hometown, close to the warm bosom of my family and surrounded by friends and well-wishers.
“Frankly, I’m dreading it.”
Whitman is one of nearly two dozen American journalists whose applications are still in limbo, as Beijing pressures US news organizations following damning reports into the finances of senior leaders’ families.
Veteran Bloomberg reporter Carol Fincher had been looking forward to a traditional Shanghai Christmas.
“I was going to book myself into a nice hotel room and get thoroughly bombed,” she explained. “But now it looks I’m going to have to spend it singing carols and exchanging heartfelt gifts with my parents, sisters and brother-in-law in our frickin’ toasty four-bedroom pile, all the way back in snow-strewn Syracuse. Ugh.”
Fincher says Beijing’s stonewalling is due to an earlier Bloomberg investigation revealing that President Xi Jinping’s extended family has amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune; last year, the New York Times published a similar report about former Premier Wen Jiabao’s family.
The Chinese government swiftly responded by blocking both websites, and refusing to answer either phone calls or text messages.
The foreign journalists currently at risk are “distraught at having to leave such a wonderful country,” according to Whitman.
“Many of us dreamed of living in a city resembling an apocalyptic Lego set, and now that’s in danger of vanishing before us,” said an emotional Whitman. “If I go back to the US, there are things I’m going to have to learn all over again – like how to drive, or get through the day without wanting to punch someone’s face.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman and part-time children’s entertainer Hong Lei yesterday denied the reports, telling media that China manages all foreign journalists’ visas “in accordance with feng shui and the whim.”
But Bloomberg’s Fincher fears that China may still be prepared to break its own rules. She says she is already making alternative plans.
“I can maybe get a new J visa to Zimbabwe or possibly Syria,” she shrugged. “But honestly, it’s just not the same.”