US Protests Chinese Expulsion of American Journalists With AM-China, Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration said Wednesday that two American reporters ordered out of China were only ″trying to print the truth″ but that it would not expel any Chinese reporters in retaliation.
Expressing ″grave concern″ over the expulsions, presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the Chinese action ″will not succeed in keeping the truth about what is going on in China from being heard.″
Earlier in the day, the Chinese government accused Associated Press reporter John Pomfret and Voice of America bureau chief Alan Pessin of violating martial law restrictions and gave them three days to leave the country.
Undersecretary of State Robert Kimmitt met for 15 minutes with Chinese Ambassador Hun Xu, who was called to the State Department to receive the U.S. ″vigorous protest″ of the expulsion order, said State Department spokeswoman Sondra McCarty.
Fitzwater rejected accusations by Chinese authorities that the reporters were distorting fact, spreading rumors and instigating turmoil.
″To the contrary: We believe these journalists were trying to print the truth of the situation in China,″ Fitzwater said.
He said Chinese government attempts to harass journalists and to jam VOA broacasts aimed at Chinese audiences ″will not succeed in keeping the truth about what is going on in China from being heard in that troubled land or throughout the world.″
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler, asked if the administration planned to retaliate by expelling any of the 38 Chinese journalists in the United States, replied, ″There are no plans to take that kind of action.″
A State Department official, asked why no reciprocal step was planned, said the administration did not want to get into ″a tit-for-tat″ situation.
″It would be a losing proposition to do that,″ said the official, who requested anonymity. ″We have far more journalists there than they have here, and it’s in our interest to have them there.″
Fitzwater praised the work done by journalists who have covered the unrest in China and the bloody crackdown of the pro-democracy movement.
″The journalists and news organizations in China have performed with distinction and valor - in many cases, with personal courage - to bring the dimensions of the tragic violence there to the peoples of the world,″ Fitzwater said.
″We find the quest for truth to be a process that cannot be thwarted. Where one voice is silenced, another will take its place,″ the press secretary said. ″We join the parent news organizations of these individuals in viewing this matter with great concern.″
There was this reaction:
-In New York, Louis D. Boccardi, president and general manager of The Associated Press, said the AP had ″protested in the strongest terms to the Chinese government this unwarranted assault on fair and factual reporting.″
″John Pomfret is a journalist, not a participant, and even those who have issued this order must surely understand that,″ he said.
-VOA Director Richard Carlson told reporters that the expulsions were ″a step backward for the media in China, which over the past couple of years have demonstrated some steps forward.″
He added, ″We think it’s very unfortunate and sad, in fact, for the Chinese people, who in the tens of millions depend on the Voice of America and the BBC and some other outside broadcasters for what has been extremely reliable, straightforward, factual, unbiased accounts″ of the turmoil in their country.
At the State Department, Ms. Tutwiler said it was U.S. officials’ understanding that Pomfret and Pessin ″weren’t doing anything unusual or out of the ordinary. They were simply doing their jobs.″
Meanwhile, Secretary of State James A. Baker III was reported to be engaged in protracted negotiations with China’s ambassador in an effort to arrange the safe departure of two dissidents sheltered in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
While no break in the dispute over the dissidents was considered imminent, Baker feels ″there are reasons to be hopeful,″ a senior administration official said.
The official, who insisted on anonymity, also described Baker, who opened the talks last Saturday with Han, as ″pretty optimistic.″
The negotiations center on arranging the departure of Fang Lizhi and his wife, Li Shuxian, without specifying their ultimate destination, the officials said.
The normal way of solving such cases is to reach an understanding that the person would leave the embassy when the danger had passed and then be permitted to leave the country, another U.S. official said.
However, he said, Fang and his wife, ″may want to stay and face a trial, or whatever, to show courage.″
Both have been named in Chinese arrest warrants, which could carry death sentences upon conviction.
The couple’s son, Fang Ke, a graduate physics student at Wayne State University in Detroit, said on NBC-TV’s ″Today″ show that his parents ″are extremely patriotic and they want to stay in China and see China change.″
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, 67 senators called on the Chinese government to free student leaders jailed for their roles in the pro-democracy demonstrations.
″We urge the immediate release of all those who were peacefully demonstrating for democracy,″ the senators said in a telegram to Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng.
Among the signers were Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine; Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas; Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif.; Sen. Alan Dixon, D- Ill; Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the panel’s senior Republican.