China: CBC closes China bureau after visa application silence

CBC News, a division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has announced its decision to close its China Bureau after visa applications for journalists and media workers were repeatedly ignored. The IFJ joins its affiliate, the Communications Workers of America Canada (CWA), in condemning this attack on press freedom and urging the CBC and Canadian authorities to advocate for journalists and media workers.

The exterior of the CBC-Radio Canada tower in Montreal, Canada in 2014. CBC News recently closed its China Bureau after failing to secure visas for its correspondents (Credit: Clement Sabourin / AFP)

On November 2, CBC News, a division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced it would shutter its Beijing news bureau after repeated attempts to secure visas for journalists and media workers were met with silence.
The news division claims it had organised several meetings and discussions with Montreal’s Chinese Consulate since October 2020, attempting to secure a visa for Radio-Canada Beijing correspondent Philippe Leblanc. CBC claims the consulate only ever returned an acknowledgement of the request.
CBC News' previous Beijing correspondent, Saša Petricic, left the country following the imposition of China’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. CBC’s presence in China since the start of the pandemic has been limited to coverage of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, an event marred by censorship and attacks on press freedom.
Prior to this decision, the CBC had maintained a presence in China for over forty years. In a blog, CBC News editor in chief Brodie Fenlon expressed the news organisation’s commitment to covering China and East Asia. While CBC News looks for a new office, some staff will temporarily operate out of Taiwan.
Through its monitoring work, the IFJ has documented the decline of press freedom in China and its influence overseas. Its most recent report The Story That Won’t Be Silenced: Hong Kong Freedom of Expression Report 2022 was released in October 2022. The report details the attempted destruction of press freedom and independent journalism in Hong Kong as Beijing’s influence over the city’s legal system and media grows.
The President of the CWA Canada, Martin O’Hanlon, said: “We’re very disappointed to hear that the CBC has decided to close its China bureau, but we understand that the decision was made because the Chinese government has refused to grant visas to CBC journalists, and the bureau has effectively been closed for over two years. We urge the CBC to continue to press the Chinese government to approve visas and to reopen the bureau if possible. We also call on the Canadian government to pressure China to grant the visas.”
The IFJ said: “China’s latest attack on press freedom is not unprecedented by any means. The exclusion of the CBC News team is indicative of an increasingly hostile environment for journalists and media workers in China. The IFJ calls on the Canadian government and the CBC to advocate for the rights of journalists and media workers and urges the Chinese government to stop its attacks on press freedom.

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