Press Release — China Denies Visa to Reporter and OFF Speaker Megha Rajagopalan

HRF condemns China’s decision to deny a journalist visa to Rajagopalan, who has worked in the country for six years.

NEW YORK (August 23, 2018) -- The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the Chinese government’s decision to deny a journalist visa to BuzzFeed reporter and Oslo Freedom Forum speaker Megha Rajagopalan. Rajagopalan, who has worked in China for six years, submitted an application for a long-term, resident journalist visa shortly after publishing an in-depth article on China’s state-sponsored discrimination against members of the country’s ethnic minority group, the Uighurs. Her application was delayed for months before being formally denied in May.

“China’s authoritarian regime has for decades banned all political discourse within the country. It owns and directly influences major news outlets, and censors coverage it does not like. Lately, the regime is also harassing foreign journalists like Rajagopalan who dare to criticize the regime, while it officially pretends to welcome them,” HRF Chief Legal Officer Javier El-Hage said. “The government’s sudden turn against Megha Rajagopalan, who has reported from China for years and maintained the highest caliber of journalistic integrity, is a worrying reversal. It has no clear reason for denying her entry into the country, and the timing cannot be a coincidence.”

Rajagopalan has become a key source of information on the Chinese government’s discriminatory policies against the Uighur minority, a largely Muslim ethnic group that has long been targeted for persecution. Today, nearly one million Uighurs are being held in extrajudicial, “reeducation” camps, as Uighurs in the Chinese region of Xinjiang face constant, high-tech surveillance; intimidation and threats; and an organized campaign to extinguish their language and culture. As Rajagopalan explained in her 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum talk, “The Police State of the Future Is Already Here,” China’s actions in Xinjiang have major implications for the rest of China and the world; companies that developed surveillance technologies in Xinjiang are now exporting those products globally through the regime’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Though Rajagopalan can still technically apply for short-term visas to report on individual stories in China, this long-term visa denial effectively ends her career as an on-the-ground foreign correspondent in the country. From now on, Rajagopalan will continue to report for BuzzFeed News from a new posting in the Middle East, where she will cover technology and human rights. Commenting on her career shift, Rajagopalan tweeted: “I also want to make clear that though I can’t do it from inside China anymore, I’m not going to stop reporting on and speaking about state surveillance, repression, and incarceration of millions of Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

For press inquiries, please contact media@hrf.org.

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