The following is a letter from FCCC President Jonathan Watts to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Attn: Mr. Ma Zhaoxu
News Department Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Dear Mr. Ma Zhaoxu,
On behalf of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, whose members include more than 250 Beijing-based foreign journalists, I would like to propose a change in the organisation of the prime minister’s news conference at the end of the National People’s Congress.
Many foreign journalists are concerned about the stage-managed nature of this event. The FCCC requests that it be made more open and spontaneous.
For several years now, the Foreign Ministry has called reporters in advance asking what questions people are likely to ask, and then indicated which reporters are likely to be called upon to ask a question.
In some instances, preparation can be helpful, particularly for journalists who require data-based responses. But the submission of questions in advance should be a choice, not a requirement.
Giving reporters more opportunity to ask questions without notice would make the press conference more lively. We would also like to request the opportunity for follow-up questions.
As China is committed to more openness, we hope the to-and-fro of a spontaneous news conference can become not just a norm, but a more frequent occurrence. Opportunities to ask questions of the prime minister and president are rare in China compared to other nations of similar stature. The FCCC calls for more access to senior leaders.
On this and other issues, the FCCC would welcome the opportunity to exchange views with the relevant government officials.