Row erupts as China retracts Canadian scribes’ visas

Agence France Presse

Toronto, January 15:

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin demanded answers from China yesterday, after Beijing sparked a human rights row by revoking the visas of two Toronto-based Chinese reporters due to cover his visit to Asia. “This is a very serious issue, in this country, we believe fully in freedom of the press,” Martin said. “We continue to ask the government that the visas be accepted and these journalists be allowed to accompany us on the visit,” Martin told reporters in the capital Ottawa hours before embarking on a five-nation Asian tour. The two journalists, with the Chinese-language New Tang Dynasty TV had been due to join Martin’s press corps in Japan for a flight into China next week on the last leg of his tour to Asia.

But their visas, originally issued by the Chinese embassy in Ottawa were withdrawn, the channel’s president Joe Wang told AFP. “This is yet another measure (the) Chinese communist regime took to stifle the voice of an independent media,” NDTV said in a statement. The station claimed that the Chinese communist party had “extended their arm into Canada and right into the prime minister’s own office.” Martin is due to hold talks with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao during the January 20-23 visit, which is largely devoted to a thrust for stronger trade ties between Ottawa and Beijing. Wang said he suspected that the visas for reporters Danielle Zhu and David Ren were revoked because his station beams news into China by satellite, covering issues like human rights and the crackdown on the Falungong spiritual movement.