Washington Post Reporter Denied Visa over Negative Restaurant Review
BEIJING — Greg Bennett, a long-standing reporter for The Washington Post, was denied a visa this week in what many see as an act of retaliation by the Chinese government for a negative restaurant review the Post ran back in October.
Though not written by Bennett, the review for Jade Hymn Bistro in Georgetown—which is owned by the son of a senior official—called the eatery “over-salted and overpriced” and pointed out that the takeout bags misspelled the restaurant’s name as “Jade Hymen.”
Bennett’s expulsion is the latest in a series of increasingly erratic retaliations by the Chinese government against foreign journalists—from Melissa Chan and Chris Buckley, who were expelled over critical pieces in their respective newspapers; to James Tate, a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal who was denied entry after the Journal published a crossword puzzle in which “Dalai Lama” was an answer; and Stephanie Greer, the Beijing bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune, who was forced out after her paper ran a help wanted classified from a Falun Gong member.
Though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not publicly acknowledged any of these incidents, a source at the ministry said that this was all part of the government’s soft power push.
“It’s simple,” the official said. “The government is trying to improve China’s image in foreign countries by systematically removing every foreign news outlet that publishes critical news about China.”
According to him, higher-ups were prepared to go “all the way,” until “Pollyannas like Thomas Friedman and Martin Jacques are the only writers allowed in China.”
For his part, Bennett is working from D.C. until his visa is approved and is staying positive.
“Though I’m sad not to be in China,” he said, “D.C. is a hell of a lot better than where Chinese journalists go when they piss off the government.”