China Blocked Access to White House News Conference With Xi, Reporter Says (博讯 boxun.com)
By J. DAVID GOODMAN
Zhao Yan, a Chinese journalist and dissident living in New York, said on Friday that he was prevented by Chinese officials from entering a room at the White House for a news conference on Tuesday with President Obama and the likely future leader of China, Xi Jinping.
In an interview with The Lede, Mr. Zhao said he had been granted access by the White House to cover the event for Boxun.com, a Chinese-language news site based in the United States. But once inside, he said, officials from China’s delegation identified him and asked that he be barred from the room where the two leaders were delivering prepared remarks.
Mr. Zhao said through an interpreter that he wanted to ask Mr. Xi whether he would do more to support human rights in China than his predecessors have.
The White House disputed his account, saying that the incident was the result of a miscommunication and that Mr. Zhao was simply not among the limited number of American and Chinese pool reporters approved for the small event. He had been granted entry into the White House only for the daily briefing, later that afternoon.
In 2005, Mr. Zhao, then a researcher for The New York Times in its Beijing bureau, was jailed in China as part of an investigation into the sources used for a Times article about the Chinese leadership. He was acquitted of the main charge of revealing state secrets, but spent three years in jail on unrelated charges and subsequently left China for the United States.
At the later press briefing with the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, he posed his question and it appeared as part of the transcript published on the White House site:
Q I’m a political journalist and political analyst from China. I have been here for two and a half years, and I have always seen the American government, the Obama government, place much more importance on the appreciation of the renminbi.
MR. CARNEY: On the appreciation of the renminbi?
Q Yes, place much more importance on the appreciation of the renminbi. Our readers are very concerned whether the U.S. government is much less interested in the human rights situation in China. And our readers are also interested to know whether the U.S. government will center on the human rights issue and policy between Middle East region and China. Can you talk to our readers about these two issues?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would simply say that we have, in our relationship with the People’s Republic of China, a whole host of issues, as I was saying before. And we always raise human rights concerns at the highest levels when we have meetings with senior members of the Chinese leadership, and we will continue to do that. It is simply not the case that we emphasize one aspect of our relationship over the other. They are all important — both the areas where we agree, and the areas where we disagree. And we certainly express ourselves openly when we have concerns about human rights issues, as we do in this case.
President Obama is very aware of that issue, as is Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton and others.
Mr. Zhao provided an e-mail chain between himself and the White House press office that documented his application to cover the event and its approval. “All set, thanks!” read the last message, signed, “The White House Press Team.”
Mr. Zhao captured video on his iPhone in which a White House press officer can be heard telling him that he would only be allowed to cover the later press briefing. “There are very strict numbers for this,” the man can be heard saying.
The editor of Boxun, an independent news site run out of North Carolina, confirmed that Mr. Zhao had gone to the White House as its representative. He said that if Mr. Zhao was in fact stopped, it could have been because of his association with the site or his own history of dissident activities. “If the person there recognized him as he says, it’s likely he was blocked for himself,” the editor, who goes by the pseudonym Wei Shi, said in a telephone interview. “He has a face that is recognized.”
Mr. Zhao said on Friday that if he had been allowed into the room with Mr. Xi, and had not been formally allowed to ask a question, “I would have stood up anyway and asked.”
[博讯编译报道] (博讯 boxun.com)