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China ejects New York Times journalist

A New York Times journalist has been expelled from China for two months after his paper published a report on the family wealth of Premier Wen Jiabao. The issue highlights the strict media controls in the country.

China has started the new year by expelling an experienced New York Times journalist from its shores. In October the US newspaper had published a report about the family wealth of State Council Premier Wen Jiabao.

Australian reporter Chris Buckley has lived in China for 15 years, spending 12 of those as a reporter. He flew out of Beijing on Monday with his wife and 12-year-old daughter.

The paper's executive editor, Jill Abramson, said Buckley had been "forced to relocate" outside China despite the newspaper's repeated attempts to renew his visa.

"I hope the Chinese authorities will issue him a new visa as soon as possible and allow Chris and his family to return to Beijing," added Abramson.

Buckley reported last year on the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai, the Communist party politician who fell from grace after the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in 2011. He also covered the power plays in the run-up to the party's leadership changes in November last year.

October Times report

The Times' October report by David Barboza alleged relatives of Wen had controlled some $2.7 billion (2.0 billion euros) in assets. China blocked access to the Chinese and English-language versions of the newspaper after the report was published.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at the time that the piece "smears China's name and has ulterior motives." Lawyers for Wen Jiabao's family denied reports of their riches as untrue.

Barboza subsequently managed to get his visa renewed to continue working in China.

Media visas

Times journalist Phil Pan, who has worked in China for a number of years, is also waiting to have his visa renewed.

"I also hope that Phil Pan, whose application for journalist credentials has been pending for many months, will also be issued a visa to serve as our bureau chief in Beijing," said Abramson.

China's new leader, Xi Jinping Xi, has said in a number of speeches that corruption threatens the Communist Party's existence.

The Communist party in China strictly controls the local press, issuing instructions via officials which are passed on to editors. Control of foreign journalists has often been achieved via the annual visa renewal process.

jm/dr (Reuters, AP)