China ignores questions on expelled reporter

The Chinese Foreign Ministry's usually staid news briefing showed some spark, with 14 out of 18 questions concerning the first expulsion of a foreign journalist from the country in more than a dozen years.

Not that you would know from the official transcript.

As seen Wednesday on its website, the ministry's account of Tuesday's briefing mentioned only the four questions not dealing with the ejection of Melissa Chan, the Al-Jazeera news network's sole English-language reporter in Beijing. Two dealt with the Middle East, two with the Philippines.

The transcripts are considered an official public record of proceedings at the five-times-weekly briefings, but sensitive questions have occasionally been left out without notice or explanation.

An official at the ministry's news office said she was unaware of gaps in the transcript and asked for a faxed list of questions about it. Chan's expulsion hasn't been reported in Chinese domestic media.

Ministry spokesman Hong Lei had responded to the battery of questions about Chan on Tuesday by repeating over and again that journalists must obey Chinese rules. He refused to say what regulations Chan may have violated.

Chan was the first foreign journalist expelled from China since 1998 amid a hardening attitude toward international media. The government's hostility toward foreign journalists contrasts with its own big-budget drive to establish a global media presence for Chinese state media that report from the perspective of the ruling Communist Party.