BEIJING, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The Chinese government has renewed the press accreditations for journalists from Bloomberg News and several New York Times reporters, a journalists' group said on Thursday.
Foreign journalists from the two media organisations had feared they may have to leave China after the government gave no indication it would grant them their accreditations, a move criticised by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on a visit to Beijing earlier this month.
Washington has been concerned over China's efforts to restrict the activities of foreign news organisations. Neither the New York Times Co nor Bloomberg News was given new journalist visas for more than a year after they published stories about the wealth of family members of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and President Xi Jinping, respectively.
China requires foreign journalists to renew their accreditation with the foreign ministry each year, normally in November or December. Reporters need their press cards to apply to the police for residence permits.
Peter Ford, President of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC), welcomed the news and said he hoped other New York Times correspondents would also receive their accreditations. "We hope this development means the New York Times reporters still awaiting their press cards will be given them soon, and all the reporters whose visa procedure is still underway will be issued with 2014 residence visas," he said in a statement.
Belina Tan, a Bloomberg spokeswoman in Singapore, said: "We have received all our China press cards and continue to operate as usual."
The New York Times could not immediately be reached for comment. Edward Wong, the Times' acting China bureau chief, confirmed on Twitter that some of the newspaper's journalists in China, but not all, had their new press cards, but none of the reporters had yet been given their 2014 residence visas.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing that the issue of journalists' visa renewals had been dealt with "in accordance with the law and the rules."
"Any person who speaks nonsense about this or who wants to seize on the incident and exaggerate it, does not accord with the facts and is completely wrong," she said.
Foreign reporters working in China face numerous difficulties, including a lack of access to top officials and harassment, and even violence, when covering sensitive events such as protests. China says foreign media are granted wide-ranging freedoms.
In November, the Chinese government rejected a visa application by Paul Mooney, an American journalist to whom Thomson Reuters had extended an offer to work in China. It has given no reason for this.
Bloomberg LP, the news and financial information company, competes with Thomson Reuters.