Hao Junshi, the manager of the new media department at the Global Times, in a Dec. 16 post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, said the U.S. Embassy in China had rejected his application for a non-immigrant visa, while attaching a photo of the letter from the embassy. He didn’t specify which visa he had applied for.
The letter stated that Hao “didn’t have the qualification for non-immigrant visa” and “could not prove the visiting activities [he] planned in the United States match the standard for the visa category he applied for.” Hao also failed to provide evidence that he had to go back to China after the visit, according to the notice.
The letter added that Hao would not be able to appeal the decision, and would instead have to submit a fresh application.
The visa rejection came not long after the United States enacted the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act backing protesters in Hong Kong who have been taking to the streets since June to resist perceived political interference from Beijing.
The Act contains provisions targeting Chinese state-controlled media outlets, including directing the State Department to consider whether a media has carried out disinformation or engaged in “deliberate targeting and harassment” of pro-democracy activists and foreign diplomats in deciding whether to grant work or travel visas to journalists from the outlets.
A spokesperson for the State Department said it could not comment on the decision, citing that “visa records are confidential under U.S. law.”
“Consular officers refuse visa applications if an applicant is found ineligible under the Immigration and Nationality Act or other provisions of U.S. law,” the spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email.
Hao’s post drew over 10,000 likes in a few hours, with many Chinese netizens seeming to relish the news.
“No chance to breathe the air of freedom,” one user commented.
“It’d be abnormal if the visa was not rejected,” another wrote.
The new law also asks the State Department to “clearly inform [China] that the use of media outlets to spread disinformation or to intimidate and threaten its perceived enemies in Hong Kong or in other countries is unacceptable.”
The legislation specifically names Hong Kong tabloids Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao as “organizations controlled” by the Chinese regime.
Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Wen Wei Media Group, which owns the two outlets, issued a statement a day after the Act was passed, calling the provisions a “serious intrusion” to press freedom.
The two outlets, as well as the Global Times, have consistently framed the ongoing pro-democracy protests in a negative light, in line with Beijing propaganda talking points.
On Nov. 20, after the House passed a version of the bill, the Global Times carried a commentary saying that the legislation “should be called Support Hong Kong Violence Act.”
In another editorial on Nov. 15, the outlet accused U.S. lawmakers sponsoring the Act of “committing a crime to Hong Kong” and encouraging violence.
Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po both frequently ran articles and front page advertisements labeling the protesters as “rioters”—a characterization used by the regime officials and state-run outlets to describe the demonstrators.
One day before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Wen Wei Po ran an article suggesting that the protesters were planning a “citywide massacre,” adding that they were “the same as terrorists plotting suicidal attacks.” The protesters, in response, described the report as a “shameless” attempt by the Chinese regime to undermine the movement. They also halted demonstrations for a day on Sept. 11 in remembrance of the attacks.
Ta Kung Po similarly got into hot water in August, after it published a photograph purported to be of U.S. diplomat Julie Eadeh, who was seen talking with prominent Hong Kong activists inside a hotel. The headline of the article, which appeared above the photo, read “Malicious Foreign Forces Interfere With Hong Kong Affairs.”
In response, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus criticized the disclosure of the diplomat’s personal details and photographs. “Official Chinese media reports on our diplomat in Hong Kong have gone from irresponsible to dangerous,” Ortagus said in a tweet on Aug. 9.
A State Department spokesperson told The Epoch Times at the time that the ongoing movement reflected the broad sentiment of Hongkongers.
“It is not credible to think that millions of people are being manipulated to stand for a free and open society,” a spokesperson for the department said in an email.