The office of the al-Jazeera English-language bureau in Beijing
A reporter for al-Jazeera\'s English-language channel with a reputation for hard-hitting journalism has been expelled from China.
The station announced the expulsion
on Tuesday, saying it was believed to be the first expulsion of a foreign correspondent from China in almost 14 years.
The Chinese government\'s refusal to renew credentials for Melissa Chan or to issue a visa for a new correspondent forced al-Jazeera English to shut down its China operations, the Qatar-based satellite news network said in a statement.
The Foreign Correspondents\' Club of China said that it was \"appalled by the decision of the Chinese government\" and described it as the \"most extreme example of a recent pattern of using journalist visas in an attempt to censor and intimidate foreign correspondents in China\".
Beijing did not issue any explanation for the move, which comes during a period of heightened government pressure on foreign journalists. The Correspondents\' Club said in a statement that Chinese officials had expressed anger about a documentary aired by al-Jazeera English that Chan did not work on. The documentary in question was apparently one concerning labour camps in China.
The officials also \"accused Ms Chan of violating rules and regulations that they have not specified\", the organisation said.
Chan, an American, had been China correspondent for al-Jazeera\'s English channel since 2007. During that time, she built a reputation as one of the best Western reporters in the country, filing tough-nosed reports on issues including villagers\' protests against land grabs in the countryside and the operation of illegal \"black jails\" used to detain petitioners in Beijing.
\"Just as China news services cover the world freely we would expect that same freedom in China for any al-Jazeera journalist,\" Salah Negm, director of news at al-Jazeera English, said in a statement.
\"Al-Jazeera Media Network will continue to work with the Chinese authorities in order to reopen our Beijing bureau.\"
The Chinese government had taken the highly unusual step of not renewing Chan\'s one-year journalist visa and press credentials at the end of last year, instead giving her a series of short-term visas that ended without renewal at the end of last month. Chan could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
A graduate of Yale University, and board member of the Foreign Correspondents\' Club of China, Chan was recently awarded a 2012-13 John S Knight Journalism fellowship at Stanford University.
There have been several signals in the past year or so that Beijing intends to tighten its grip on foreign media.
Last week, for example, about a dozen correspondents were summoned by the visa department of the Public Security Bureau in Beijing after reporting on the plight of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng. Those reporters had entered the driveway of a hospital where Mr Chen is being held in an attempt to interview US diplomats who had just arrived.
They were told by the Public Security Bureau that they had violated China\'s reporting regulations - which require prior permission from an organisation before doing interviews - and told them that their visas would be revoked should they break the rules again.
\"We urge China\'s ministry of foreign affairs to immediately grant al-Jazeera English correspondents accreditation to report the news in China,\" Bob Dietz, the Committee to Protect Journalists\' Asia program co-ordinator, said in a statement issued by the New York organisation.
\"The refusal to renew Melissa Chan\'s credentials marks a real deterioration in China\'s media environment, and sends a message that international coverage is unwanted.\"