Foreign journalists in China face "unprecedented hurdles" as media freedom declines at "breakneck speed", a new report has said, just as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics.
Ninety-nine per cent of journalists responding to an annual Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China survey said that "reporting conditions did not meet what they considered to be international standards".
China's foreign ministry spokesperson has previously said that the organisation representing foreign journalists was "illegal".
The journalists said that COVID-19 has often been used by authorities to block them from reporting or to delay the approval of visas for foreign journalists.
More than half of foreign journalists surveyed said they had been forced to leave a place or denied access due to health measures and 46% of respondents said their bureaus were understaffed because they could not bring in new journalists.
More than 60% of respondents said they were obstructed by police or officials at least once and nearly 90% of journalists who travelled to Xinjiang in 2019 amid reports of the mass detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the region.
More than a quarter of respondents said their sources were "harassed, detained or called in for questioning by police more than once."
The correspondents club said that Chinese authorities were increasingly encouraging lawsuits against foreign journalists, adding that a handful of foreign correspondents had left due to the harassment.
China is gearing up to host the 2022 Winter Olympics even as many countries, including the US, Canada and some European nations, say they will not send a diplomatic presence over human rights abuses.