China called on the United States to extend visas for all Chinese journalists in the US as soon as possible out of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing on Monday, adding that the US is very clear that China has all options on the table.
Zhao made the remark at a regular news briefing when asked about a US State Department spokesperson's recent statement that the Chinese Foreign Ministry had recently told the US Embassy in Beijing it was denying press card renewals to foreign journalists.
"The statement is completely untrue and it is aimed to shift the blame," Zhao told reporters.
According to Zhao, the extensions of press cards held by the US journalists, including those working for CNN, are being handled and they will not be affected in any way before they are granted new press cards.
"We have formally told the US about it," he said, noting that China has been communicating with the US, hoping to resolve the issue concerning Chinese and US media and journalists on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
The spokesman said that although the US has been escalating its political suppression of China's media for some time, including limiting visas for all Chinese journalists in the US to a maximum of 90 days' stay, China has been exercising restraint without implementing countermeasures and has extended visas for US journalists as usual to provide convenience for them.
Even as the US expelled 60 Chinese journalists and denied visas for over 20 Chinese journalists, China has not expelled the same number of US journalists, he said.
"However, during the talks, the US has been unreasonable, ignoring China's legitimate and normal concerns and requests. It has taken the extension issue and the Chinese journalists as hostages to exert maximum pressure on China. We will never accept that," Zhao said.
As of Monday, none of the Chinese journalists in the US whose visas expired Aug 6 had gotten an extension, even though they had submitted extension requests to US officials long ago.
The spokesman said US journalists in China are well aware of these facts and they oppose the practice of using the Chinese and US media as pawns.
"If the US government really cares about American journalists in China, they should extend the visas for all Chinese journalists as soon as possible instead of kidnapping Chinese and American journalists out of selfish political purposes," Zhao said.
If the US insists on going down the wrong path, China will be compelled to make necessary and legitimate reactions to firmly uphold its legitimate rights and interests, he added.