White House Press Corps Detained in China
Demonstrating the public relations prowess for which they’re known, Chinese authorities detained the White House press corps for nearly three hours upon its plane landing in Beijing.
The flight crew of the Northwest Airlines 747 had been expecting to park at a VIP terminal, but after landing was instead directed by the control tower to a normal international gate.
White House officials would say only there were “logistical problems” getting clearance to unload the aircraft. The flight crew was told the Chinese were insisting that all luggage be inspected.
Typically, the White House press charter receives the “custom of the port,” meaning reporters, photographers and camera crews are able to get off the plane right after landing, board buses and head to their hotels and work areas while U.S. State Department officials process immigration and customs details.
For whatever reason, I was until now unfamiliar with this custom. Then again, one presumes that people with passes to follow the president around have been rather thoroughly screened.
Am I surprised by this incident? Not at all.
UPDATE: Retired diplomat John Burgess provides some interesting background on this practice in the comments.