China expels three Wall Street Journal reporters

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China has expelled three reporters for The Wall Street Journal after its foreign ministry deemed as “racist” an op-ed headline in the newspaper.

A statement obtained by multiple news outlets from China’s foreign ministry blamed the expulsions on an opinion piece written by Walter Russell Mead titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” a reference to the ongoing outbreak of a new form of coronavirus in the country.

“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and maliciously attacks China,” spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters, according to Reuters. “In light of this, China has decided to revoke the press cards of the three Wall Street Journal correspondents in Beijing starting today.”

“However, regrettably, what the [Journal] 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,” Geng added.

The Journal confirmed in a statement that the expelled journalists were Philip Wen, Chao Deng and Josh Chin.

The Journal’s CEO and publisher William Lewis called for China to immediately reinstate the reporters’ credentials, while apologizing for the headline which offended Chinese readers.

“We are deeply disappointed with today’s announcement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel three Wall Street Journal news reporters in response to a WSJ opinion piece published on February 3rd,” Lewis said in a statement.

“Our opinion pages regularly publish articles with opinions that people disagree – or agree with – and it was not our intention to cause offense with the headline on the piece,” Lewis continued. “However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.”

“The need for quality, trusted news reporting from China is greater than ever; today’s decision to target our News department journalists greatly hinders that effort,” he added.

China’s announcement was immediately condemned by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. The group, which represents foreign journalists in the country, in a statement to The Washington Post called the expulsions “an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organizations.”

“Many of those evicted from China are fair and talented journalists who worked hard to bring unbiased, informative reports to their audiences and to understand China,” the organization added, referring to all journalists expelled by China in recent years.

The expulsions followed a decision by the Trump administration to designate several Chinese media companies as de facto arms of the government in Beijing.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday chastised China for expelling the three WSJ journalists.
“Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions,” Pompeo said in a statement. “The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech. The United States hopes that the Chinese people will enjoy the same access to accurate information and freedom of speech that Americans enjoy.”

–Updated at 12:12 p.m.

Tags China journalists Mike Pompeo Wall Street Journal

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