The FINANCIAL — China said it would revoke the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters working in mainland China, after the newspaper declined to apologize for a column with a headline calling China the “real sick man of Asia.”
China revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters based in Beijing, the first time in the post-Mao era that the Chinese government has expelled multiple journalists from one international news organization at the same time. China’s Foreign Ministry said the move Wednesday was punishment for a recent opinion piece published by the Journal, The Wall Street Journal wrote.
China’s action against the Wall Street Journal correspondents comes after the United States said on Tuesday it would begin treating five Chinese state-run media entities with U.S. operations, including Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network and China Daily Distribution Corp the same as foreign embassies, requiring them to register employees and U.S. properties with the State Department. Foreigners are not allowed to work as journalists in China without official credentials, which are required to obtain a residence visa, according to Yahoo News.
Speaking at a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the expulsion was due to an opinion piece published by the US news organization on February 3, entitled “China is the real sick man of Asia.” “The editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community,” Geng said. Chinese authorities have increasingly used visa restrictions to show displeasure with or exert pressure over foreign media in China. Numerous foreign journalists have been placed on on short-term visas instead of the standard one-year visa, CNN Business reported.
While China has declined to approve press credentials for foreign journalists before, it’s rare for authorities to punish three reporters at once from the same news organization. It also sets a worrying new precedent for news outlets with staff in China as the article was written by an author based in the U.S. who wrote opinions, which are generally removed from news-gathering operations. The Feb. 3 article described China as the “sick man of Asia,” a phrase often used by 19th century European powers to describe the weakened state of the Qing Empire, which then governed China. “The editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community,” Geng told reporters in an online press conference, according to Bloomberg.
The column is a coronavirus-related piece by Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College. It was published on Feb. 3 and argued that “Chinese authorities are still trying to conceal the true scale of the problem” of the virus that has now sickened tens of thousands and killed more than 2,000 people. “China’s initial response to the crisis was less than impressive,” Mead wrote. He could not be immediately reached for comment, USA Today reported.
China declined to renew credentials of another Wall Street Journal reporter last year. A person with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters at the time that officials at China’s foreign ministry, which accredits foreign journalists, expressed displeasure about a story co-written by the reporter about an investigation involving Chinese President Xi Jinping’s relative, Yahoo news.