China on Wednesday revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal (WSJ) journalists in a rare decision to expel multiple journalists in one sweep as a response to what Beijing called a “racial” opinion piece published in the newspaper earlier this month.
The three expelled Beijing-based reporters, two of them US nationals and one an Australian citizen, are not known to have contributed to the piece titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia”, written by US-based professor, Walter Russel Mead.
Deputy bureau chief Josh Chin, reporter Chao Deng as well as reporter Philip Wen, have been ordered to leave the country in five days, according to a WSJ report.
The decision comes a day after Washington designating five Chinese state media outlets as “foreign missions”, requiring them to comply with rules meant for diplomatic missions and consulates.
On the journalists’ expulsion, the Chinese foreign ministry said it had asked WSJ to apologise for publishing the article but took action after the newspaper didn’t comply with Beijing’s demand.
Announcing the decision to revoke the press credentials of the three journalists, the Chinese foreign ministry said the piece “smears” the efforts of the Chinese to fight the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak.
“On February 3, the WSJ published an article titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia” by Professor Walter Russell Mead of the Bard College, which smears the efforts of the Chinese government and people on fighting the epidemic,” ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, said at the online ministry briefing on Wednesday.
“The editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community,” Geng said.
“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with WSJ and made our solemn position clear. China demands the WSJ recognise the severity of its mistake, make an official apology and hold the persons involved accountable,” Geng said.
“Meanwhile, we reserve the right to take further actions,” it was conveyed to WSJ as a warning from Beijing.
“However, regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but parrying and dodging its responsibility. It has neither issued an official apology nor informed us of what it plans to do with the persons involved.”
“The Chinese side handles affairs related to foreign journalists in accordance with laws and regulations. The Chinese people do not welcome those media that speak racially discriminatory languages and maliciously slander and attack China. As such, it is decided that from today, the Press Cards of three WSJ journalists will be revoked,” Geng added.
Earlier, Geng criticised the US’s decision to designate five Chinese state media outlets (Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio International, China Daily and People’s Daily) as “foreign missions,” requiring them to comply with rules governing foreign embassies and consulates.
US officials had said these outlets are owned and effectively controlled by the Chinese government and that each meets the definition of a foreign mission.
“We deplore and reject the wrong decision of the US,” Geng said.
“Media play an important role like a bridge or bond facilitating communication and understanding between people of different countries. Chinese media’s resident offices in the US have long been covering news following the principle of objectivity, impartiality, truth and accuracy,” he said.
“They have helped promote mutual understanding, communication and cultural exchange between our two countries”.
Geng said the US was “wantonly” restricting the press freedom of the Chinese outlets.
“The US takes great pride in its press freedom. However, it is wantonly restricting and thwarting Chinese media outlets’ normal operation there. This is unjustified and unacceptable,” he said.
“We urge the US to discard its ideological prejudice and Cold War zero-sum game mentality, and stop ill-advised measures that undermine bilateral trust and cooperation. We reserve the right to take further measures in response.”