CHINA has begun issuing media passes to New York Times (NYT) and Bloomberg journalists in a possible sign that the two American media outfits can continue operating here after weeks of uncertainty.
Several journalists told The Straits Times that they were informed by the Foreign Ministry yesterday to collect their media passes and proceed to get a residency permit, technically a visa, from the immigration authorities.
"We have received all of our China press cards and continue to operate as usual," a Bloomberg spokesman said.
About 24 journalists from NYT and Bloomberg had faced the possibility of having to leave China by the end of this month because of an unusual delay in residence permit renewal, prompting even US Vice-President Joe Biden to press top Chinese leaders on their behalf when he was here earlier this month.
While Beijing has delayed or denied visas to foreign reporters in the past, this is the first time that entire bureaus were affected, raising the spectre of a shutdown in the China operations for NYT and Bloomberg.
The delay was believed to be triggered by Beijing's anger over investigations by the media outlets into links between businesses and the kin of Chinese leaders.
Mr Peter Ford, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, welcomed the news but noted that some NYT correspondents have not received press cards yet.
"We hope that this development means the NYT reporters still awaiting their press cards will be given them soon and that all the reporters whose visa procedure is still under way will indeed be issued with 2014 residence visas," he told The Straits Times.
Foreign journalists have to first secure a press card from China's Foreign Ministry and then apply for a residency permit from immigration officials.
The renewal of press cards usually takes less than a week, but NYT and Bloomberg reporters waited more than a month.