A German journalism student has been expelled from China after researching the persecution of human rights lawyers there. 24-year-old David Missal confirmed that he had to leave on Sunday. His residence permit was shortened and a new visa for the next semester was denied. He had ten days to leave the country.
The authorities justified their decision by saying that his activities were not covered by his student visa. On demand, what that meant, the officials should have just replied: "You already know that yourself."
Missal, who graduated from Peking's Tsinghua University for the first year of a master's degree program, believes the expulsion is related to his work on the persecution of human rights lawyers in China.
Three years ago, when security authorities beat more than 300 civil rights lawyers, law clerks and activists and their relatives, many have been sentenced to probation and sometimes long prison sentences.
Missal filmed and interviewed lawyers and relatives. Among other things, he accompanied Li Wenzu, the wife of detained human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang. She had set out on a 100-kilometer march in April to draw attention to her husband's fate. Soon after, police stopped her and put her under house arrest.
Held in search and interrogated
Missal reported that he too was detained and interrogated as part of his research. In central Wuhan, where he talked with the lawyer of well-known activist Qin Yongmin, police took him to the station and told him to go back to Beijing.
Homepage of David Missal
In China, there are many requirements for foreign journalists: Only those who have a journalist visa and work permit are allowed to report. Missal was not registered as a journalist, but received the permission of his professor for the project. Only later did the University have reservations. The university could not be reached for comment.
Missal: "Study was also an experiment"
For the Osnabrücker, who already has a degree in China studies, the study of journalism in Beijing was always "also an experiment". He knew how bad the press freedom in the People's Republic is. "But it is something else again when you experience it on your own body," said Missal: "It is hoped that there is more freedom, at least at universities. But this is not the case."
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), in which Missal is a scholarship recipient, regretted the current developments in an averaging, but spoke of an isolated case.
Many imprisoned journalists and bloggers
According to the organization Reporters Without Borders, China is one of the countries with the most jailed journalists and bloggers. The country ranks 176th in the global press freedom ranking. Every day, instructions are sent to the state-controlled media about which sensitive topics are not reported, and only the official reports of the state agency Xinhua may be used. In addition, the Internet is sharply censored.
Working conditions for foreign journalists are also deteriorating, according to surveys by the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCCC). Occasionally it also happened that foreign journalists were expelled. Recently, in 2015, the French journalist Ursula Gauthier had to leave the country.