The Washington Post has a visa problem.
Last year, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli hired foreign correspondent Andrew Higgins to bolster the paper’s coverage of China. Higgins, a veteran reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was a phenomenal get—-he speaks fluent Mandarin and covered the Middle Kingdom in the late ’80s, a tour that included eyewitness reporting on the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Yet the Post hasn’t been able to place Higgins in China, on account of Beijing’s apparent refusal to issue the reporter a visa. Though details on the visa situation are scarce, the paper is deploying all its chits toward a resolution. According to sources, Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald Graham has reached out to Dr. Henry Kissinger in an attempt to add some juice to its lobbying efforts.
Graham referred an inquiry on the matter to Brauchli; Brauchli was stuck in high-level editorial meetings and couldn’t talk; Kissinger is traveling to Asia—-he’s Kissinger after all!—-and thus couldn’t get right on the phone with City Desk; an inquiry to the Chinese Embassy is pending.
Foreign Editor Douglas Jehl had this to say about the process: “We continue to talk to the Chinese embassy about our desire to get permanent accreditation for Andy Higgins to work in China. He is a wonderful writer and a great correspondent and we would love to have him in Beijing covering China for us. The embassy has been very responsive to our requests.”
Jehl also said that the Post is pleased that Beijing granted Higgins a temporary visa to cover the China leg of President Obama‘s trip to Asia last November.
Higgins’ issues with Chinese authorities go way back. He co-authored a book on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Then, in 1991, he was expelled from the country. The offense? Doing his job. According to a New York Times account of the incident, Higgins “reported on a confidential Chinese document that discussed the suppression of a nationalist movement in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia. Security officials found the document in his luggage while he was on a trip within China.”
At the time of his expulsion, Higgins was working for the British Independent. In the years since, he has covered China for other outlets, but only on short-term visas.
Until the Post scores a diplomatic breakthrough, Higgins will continue to serve as the paper’s roving global correspondent. Since last summer, the British-born Higgins has gathered by-lines from Switzerland, Indonesia, and, most recently, the United Arab Emirates, among other spots.
The Post recently announced that it was sending veteran reporter Keith Richburg to China, though it’s still planning on supplementing its reportorial muscle over there. Writes Richburg via e-mail: “I’m very excited to be heading back out to Asia, and I’m hopeful Andy’s visa request will eventually be approved and he’ll be joining me there as bureau chief in Beijing soon.”
Exactly what Kissinger has done on behalf of the Post is unclear. One source close to the situation, however, reports that the big shot’s involvement has boosted optimism among Posties about the situation.
Note: This post formerly had an update from the wrong Higgins—-the gardener Adrian, not the foreign correspondent Andrew. Error thoroughly regretted. Also deleted a line about waiting for a comment from Andrew Higgins.