McCaul slams China for expelling American journalists in letter to Chinese ambassador

McCaul slams China for expelling American journalists in letter to Chinese ambassador
© Greg Nash

Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaul The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Association of American Railroads Ian Jefferies says no place for hate, racism or bigotry in rail industry or society; Trump declares victory in response to promising jobs report Ousted watchdog says he told top State aides about Pompeo probe US to slap restrictions on more Chinese media outlets: report MORE (R-Texas) has slammed China's decision to ban U.S. journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, arguing it is trying to propagate false information and hinder the free press’ ability to uncover the truth.

McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has called on Beijing to reverse its decision, noting the few foreign reporters who have been allowed to work in China have been “subject to some of the world’s harshest and most stringent treatment."

“A pattern of disinformation issued and promoted by the Foreign Ministry amid a pandemic heightens our concerns about this unwarranted and provocative action. We urge the Foreign Ministry to immediately end its role in impeding the free flow of information globally and reverse its decision to expel American journalists,” he wrote in a letter sent to Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai on Thursday. 

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“The Foreign Ministry’s March 18 statement accuses the United States of ‘discrimination and politically-motivated oppression’ against Chinese media organizations. Yet, it completely ignores China’s systematic and endemic ‘discrimination and politically-motivated oppression’ that U.S. and other foreign media outlets have endured in China for decades,” he wrote.

The Texas Republican applauded the State Department for placing restrictions on state-run Chinese news agencies last month, arguing it was a necessary step to tamp down the country’s misinformation campaigns, noting Chinese outlets in the U.S. were pushing a false narrative that the United States was responsible for the pandemic.

“When your diplomats spread conspiracy theories on Twitter, including recent posts inaccurately claiming the United States military brought the coronavirus to China, it only further undermines the credibility of your government," he wrote.

McCaul also maintained that the country’s tactics continue to degrade a key bilateral relationship between countries and threaten global security.

“This reality was brought sharply into focus by your Communist Party’s coverup of the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Wuhan, which has contributed to the greatest global health emergency in modern times. Your ill-advised and dangerous actions demonstrate a significant lack of understanding of the American spirit. By attempting to silence our journalists, you are serving only to build up their resolve to expose the truth; the truth you continue to obfuscate,” he wrote.

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McCaul went on to state that the U.S. has been committed to seeking peaceful relations with China, but will “no longer accept basic asymmetries in our relations.”

The Texas lawmaker said he has not received a response from the Chinese ambassador, but said he feels it is critical that journalists have the ability to uncover information to prevent similar pandemics from happening in the future.

“They don't have freedom of the press, they don't have a free and independent [press], they don't have a First Amendment, they don't even have a Constitution," he told The Hill in an interview.

"You guys and gals are independent of the government. And in China, it's not — they're mouthpieces for the propaganda. They don't like our journalists snooping around trying to figure out, you know, number one, how bad is the situation in China which they're trying to cover up? What is the death count? How many cases were there really? And how did this happen, which is a fundamental question.”

McCaul said while lawmakers' main focus is currently responding and attempting to tamp down the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, they are committed to looking into the origin of the virus.

“Right now we're dealing with saving lives and that's our focus to keep the curve down and cases and social distancing, but at the end of the day we're going to be doing an analysis of how in the world this happened and how can we stop it from happening again. And if we don't deal with China and in these markets where they sell these animals that infect humans, you know, we need to hold some accountability,” he told The Hill.

“They know they're at fault for this — they're very, very sensitive to their reputation, if you will, in the global community and they know that's been very maligned,” he told The Hill. “And the whole world is looking at China asking why did this happen.”