China expels journalists from New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post
China said Tuesday that it will expel American journalists working in the country for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post whose press credentials are due to expire in 2020.
The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that U.S. reporters for those publications must return their press cards within 10 days.
“They will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People’s Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions,” the statement said.
China also demanded that Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Time provide information about their operations in the country, including staffing and finance information.
It was not immediately clear how many American journalists would be affected, and spokespeople for each of the news outlets and Voice of America, an international broadcaster funded by Congress, did not provide figures in response to inquiries.
But the newsroom leaders criticized China’s move, which comes in the midst of a global public health crisis over COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron said in a statement that it was “particularly regrettable” during the COVID-19 pandemic, when reliable information about the international response is essential. “Severely limiting the flow of that information, which China now seeks to do, only aggravates the situation,” Baron said.
Wall Street Journal Editor In Chief Matt Murray said in a statement that “China’s unprecedented attack on freedom of the press comes at a time of unparalleled global crisis. Trusted news reporting from and about China has never been more important.”
“We oppose government interference with a free press anywhere in the world. Our commitment to reporting fully and deeply on China is unchanged,” Murray said.
New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said the paper had more reporters in China than anywhere besides the U.S. He said it was “critical that the governments of the United States and China move quickly to resolve this dispute and allow journalists to do the important work of informing the public.
“The health and safety of people around the world depend on impartial reporting about its two largest economies, both of them now battling a common epidemic,” he said.
China’s move continues a tit-for-tat battle between Washington and Beijing that began in February after The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion article with the headline, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
The headline infuriated the Chinese government, which responded by revoking the press passes of three reporters for the Journal’s news division, which is operates independently of its opinion pages.
In response, on March 2, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed a cap on the number of individuals permitted to work for Chinese government-controlled media organizations in the United States. The move cut the number of employees to 100, down from 160.
In its statement on Tuesday, China’s foreign affairs ministry slammed what it called the “unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media agencies and personnel.”
China said its retaliatory moves were “entirely necessary and reciprocal countermeasures that China is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the US.”
“What the US has done is exclusively targeting Chinese media organizations, and hence driven by a Cold War mentality and ideological bias,” the ministry said. “It has seriously tarnished the reputation and image of Chinese media organizations, seriously affected their normal operation in the US, and seriously disrupted people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two countries.”
The ministry said the U.S. “exposed the hypocrisy of the self-styled advocate of press freedom” and urged Washington to “immediately change course, undo the damage, and stop its political oppression and arbitrary restrictions on Chinese media organizations.”
The ministry warned of further countermeasures if the U.S. “choose to go further down the wrong path.”
Pompeo, speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, addressed China’s move, saying “I regret China’s decision to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct free press operations.”
“Frankly, it would be really good for the Chinese people, really good for the Chinese people in these incredibly challenging global times where more information, more transparency are what will save lives.”