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New York Times says reporter forced to leave China

A New York Times reporter has been forced to leave China, two months after the newspaper carried a critical report on the wealth of the family of Premier Wen Jiabao.

Chris Buckley, who has worked in China as a journalist since 2000, left for Hong Kong on Monday after the authorities did not issue him a working visa for 2013 before the year's end, the Times said.

It is the latest of what press groups claim is a series of cases in which authorities have obstructed the work of foreign journalists, who sometimes have a difficult relationship with Beijing.

The newspaper in October published an investigation which claimed that relatives of China's reformist premier Wen Jiabao have amassed huge riches during his tenure.

The Times' English and Chinese language websites have been blocked within China since the report, which was criticised by Beijing as an attempt to "smear" China and its leaders.

"I regret that Chris Buckley has been forced to relocate outside of China despite our repeated requests to renew his journalist visa," Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement.

"I hope the Chinese authorities will issue him a new visa as soon as possible and allow Chris and his family to return to Beijing."

David Barboza, the newspaper's Shanghai bureau chief who wrote the Wen article, was among six other accredited correspondents in China who had their visas renewed.

Lawyers acting for Wen's family rejected the allegations in The Times' report.

Buckley's case follows a refusal by authorities in May to renew the visa of Al-Jazeera reporter Melissa Chan -- a decision which was linked to a documentary by the international news channel on forced prison labour in China.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said it was the latest in a recent pattern of using journalist visas to "censor and intimidate" foreign correspondents in China.

Chan was the first foreign journalist to be expelled from the country since 1998.

While China's foreign ministry did not comment specifically on Chan's case, a spokesman said foreign journalists "should abide by Chinese laws and regulations while reporting in China, and abide by professional ethics".

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