Toronto: Canada has banned journalists with China`s official news agency and the Communist Party newspaper from joining Prime Minister Stephen Harper on an Arctic trip, prompting complaints by Chinese reporters who say they`re being discriminated against.
The ban comes at a time when relations between the two countries are already strained. The Canadian government recently accused Chinese hackers of infiltrating the computer systems of Canada`s top research and development organization, which China denies.
Just a few days later, authorities in China arrested a Canadian couple on suspicion of stealing state secrets about military and national defense research. They remain in custody.
The decision not to have reporters for the People`s Daily and the Xinhua News Agency travel with Harper stems from an incident during last year`s trip to the Arctic, when Li Xuejiang of the People`s Daily pushed former Harper spokeswoman Julie Vaux after she prevented him from asking a question.
Jason MacDonald, chief Harper spokesman, said in an email yesterday from the Arctic that "some media outlets are not welcome on the trip."
In a telephone interview, Li acknowledged pushing Vaux last year, but said the prime minister`s office discriminated against Chinese journalists by not allowing him to ask a question and later having him manhandled by police.
"They used the police force to get me out of the line of the journalists. It`s very rare in the world," he said. "They made bruise on my arm."
Li, the bureau chief for the Communist Party newspaper and a former Washington correspondent, said he couldn`t understand why he was silenced. Harper`s staff limits the number of questions at public events.
Li said he didn`t even apply to go on this year`s trip. "Why do they discriminate against Chinese journalists? For racial reasons?" he said. "They didn`t give me any reason." Xinhua News Agency reporter Baodong Li said he applied but was told he could not go because of a lack of space. He doesn`t understand why he was banned.
"This is really ridiculous. This is not just against Mr. Li of the People`s Daily, it`s also against all the Chinese journalists," Baodong said. "It has nothing to do with me." Li and Baodong said they are considering issuing a complaint with the Ottawa press gallery.
David Mulroney, Canada`s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, said journalists in China can be quite aggressive, and have been for some time.