Chinese foreign minister tolerates no reporters during Pacific island tour

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the total media blackout imposed on events during Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s ten-day tour of Pacific island countries. Wang is currently mid-way through an eight-country tour that began on 26 May, but a Chinese state media reporter is so far the only journalist to be allowed to ask him a question.

On the second day of his two days in Fiji yesterday, “the media briefing itself was run by the visiting government [and] the press passes were issued by the Chinese government,” Fijian journalist Lice Movono told The Guardian.

Movono and her cameraman, and a crew with the Australian TV broadcaster ABC, were prevented from filming a meeting between Wang and the Pacific Islands Forum’s secretary-general shortly after Wang’s arrival in Fiji the day before, although they all had accreditation.

During Wang’s first stop in the Solomon Islands on 26 May, Covid restrictions were cited as grounds for allowing only a limited number of media outlets to attend the press conference and only two questions were allowed ­– one to the Solomon Islands’ foreign minister by a local reporter and one to Wang by a Chinese media outlet. No interaction with the media was allowed during his next two stops in Kiribati and Samoa.

Resist Chinese pressure

“The total opacity surrounding the events organised by the Chinese delegation with several Pacific island states clearly contravenes the democratic principles of the region’s countries,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on officials preparing to meet Wang Yi to resist Chinese pressure by allowing local journalists and international organisations to cover these events, which are of major public interest.”

Following the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji, Wang is due to visit Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste with the same aim of signing free trade and security agreements.

RSF previously condemned the Chinese delegation’s discrimination against local and international media during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit held in November 2018 in Papua New Guinea, with President Xi Jinping attending.

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