Al Jazeera Correspondent Target Of China's First Journalist Expulsion From Country Since 1998

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By IBTimes Staff Reporter | May 9, 2012 12:45 AM EST

The Al Jazeera English correspondent in Beijing, Melissa Chan, has been denied press credentials and visa renewal by Chinese authorities. The move has prompted Al Jazeera to close down its Beijing bureau, reported the news organization and Western media.

Western and international media are reporting that Chan's is the first case of an expulsion of a journalist from China since 1998.

Chan has served as Al Jazeera's China correspondent for half a decade, since 2007.

Al Jazeera said it would continue to request Chinese authorities to operate in the country, and that it is committed to remaining in China and maintaining China coverage.

The decision to deny Chan has angered the the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC), the professional association for foreign journalists in Beijing.

In a statement on Tuesday, the FCCC said that it was "appalled by the decision of the Chinese government to take this action."

The FCCC has hinted that Chan may have been erroneously tied to an Al Jazeera documentary which stirred tempers within the Chinese government.

"Chinese officials had expressed anger at a documentary the channel aired last November. Melissa Chan did not even play a part in making that documentary. They have also expressed unhappiness with the general editorial content on Al Jazeera English and accused Ms Chan of violating rules and regulations that they have not specified," said FCCC. The organization believes that over recent years, visa and approval to work processing for foreign journalists have often met with difficulty in China.

"We hope China appreciates the integrity of our news coverage and our journalism. We value this journalist integrity in our coverage of all countries in the world," said Salah Negm, Director of News at Al Jazeera English. Negm added that "as China news services cover the world freely we would expect that same freedom in China for any Al Jazeera journalist."

It has not been disclosed how many other journalists are in the Beijing office of Al Jazeera and are also being affected by the bureau closure.

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