China defends expulsion of journalists, warns more possible

China on Wednesday defended its decision to expel journalists working for three American news organizations and to forbid them from working in Hong Kong, adding that more expulsions could be coming.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said during a daily press briefing that China would take more steps against American media if the U.S. did not “correct its mistakes,” Reuters reported.

“The U.S. has said that all options are on the table. Today, I can also tell the U.S. that all options are on the table for China,” Geng said, according to Reuters.

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China announced Tuesday that journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post would be forced to leave the country at the end of 2020 and would not be permitted to work in Hong Kong as allowed during past expulsions. 

The decision will affect at least 13 journalists, according to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, which said it “deplores” the choice. The club has requested that Hong Kong ensure that foreign journalists and those applying for work in the semi-autonomous city would still receive employment without the Chinese government getting involved. 

The Chinese government said the expulsions were in reaction to U.S. actions against Chinese media, such as requiring Chinese state media to register as foreign embassies and reducing the number of journalists allowed to work for these outlets in the U.S.

The decision to prohibit the reporters from working in Hong Kong has specifically stirred outrage given the one country, two systems relationship put in place after China took control of Hong Kong in 1997. Reporters have previously been allowed to work in Hong Kong after they were expelled from China. 

Chinese officials said they were allowed to forbid the reporters from working in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which is its small constitution, says China can manage its foreign affairs and defense. 

China had previously expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters because of an op-ed headline that the foreign ministry labeled as racist. The headline was “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” referring to the coronavirus outbreak.