China detains Bloomberg news assistant over “security” concerns

Haze Fan, a journalist with Bloomberg News, is shown in an undated image. (Graphic by The Desk)

A Chinese national working as an assistant for the business news firm Bloomberg was detained by national authorities this week, the financial outlet said on Friday.

Haze Fan was last seen by an editor Monday morning when she was escorted from her apartment building by individuals that Bloomberg described as “plain clothes security officials.”

Bloomberg said it contacted Chinese officials repeatedly before learning on Thursday that Fan was being held on suspicion of “participating in activities endangering national security,” the outlet said.

“We are very concerned for her, and have been actively speaking to Chinese authorities to better understand the situation,” a spokesperson for Bloomberg said in a statement. “We are continuing to do everything we can to support her while we seek more information.”

Fan has an extensive history working with international news organizations, including stints at Thomson Reuters, CBS News, CNBC and Al Jazeera. She began working for Bloomberg in 2017, the company said.

China permits its citizens to work for foreign news outlets, but only as translators, news researchers or assistants. The country does not allow citizens to produce independent reporting for foreign news companies. Fan is a Chinese citizen.

In the past, China has arrested news assistants and other citizens working for foreign news outlets following reports that the government deems unfavorable.

Bloomberg has come under fire by Chinese officials in the past, including after the news organization reported on the personal business of several prominent government officials several years ago.

But the financial news firm is not the only one to experience hardships working in China: This year, the country’s government revoked work visas of more than a dozen foreign journalists working for the Wall Street Journal, CNN and other outlets.

In September, Chinese authorities imposed additional visa restrictions that allowed government officials to revoke the press credentials of foreign workers there. Since then, some journalists have seen their press credentials shortened from the typical one-year period to as little as two months.

In addition to the restrictions, Chinese authorities have also restricted access to the websites foreign news organizations during periods of news reporting that the government views as unfavorable. On Friday, the U.S.-based website for Bloomberg News was blocked across the country, according to a test conducted by The Desk using a tool that monitors the ability for China-based computer servers to access various parts of the Internet.

The domestic websites of Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera English and the New York Times were also blocked Friday, the test showed, while the websites of CNN, CBS News and ABC News were available to view.

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