BEIJING – China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday the expulsion of American journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post as a measure taken by Beijing “in the spirit of reciprocity.”
“China demands that journalists of US citizenship working with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post whose press credentials are due to expire before the end of 2020… and hand back their press cards within 10 calendar days,” the ministry said in a statement released on its website on Wednesday.
In addition, Beijing will not allow the affected journalists to continue practicing the profession in China, including in its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, a measure which according to the country was taken, “in response to the US slashing the staff size of Chinese media outlets in the US, which is expulsion in all but name.”
“In response to the US designation of five Chinese media agencies as ‘foreign missions,’ China demands, in the spirit of reciprocity, that the China-based branches of Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Time declare in written form information about their staff, finance, operation and real estate in China,” the statement added.
The ministry warned that, “in response to the discriminatory restrictions the US has imposed on Chinese journalists with regard to visa, administrative review and reporting, China will take reciprocal measures against American journalists.”
On March 2, Washington announced that state-controlled Chinese media outlets such as Xinhua, CGTN, China Daily and China Radio International could only employ a restricted number of Chinese nationals for these organizations on US territory.
While all the media outlets named by the US are state-run, out of all the media organizations named by the Chinese authorities, only Voice of America is not a private entity.
The action by the US was in response to China’s decision to expel Beijing-based journalists from the WSJ.
China at that time claimed that the expulsion was decided in response to a Feb. 3 op-ed published by the outlet, titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
The MFA said on Wednesday that Washington’s measures were “driven by a Cold War mentality and ideological bias.”
“It has therefore exposed the hypocrisy of the self-styled advocate of press freedom,” the statement said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged China to reconsider its decision.
In a statement, the New York Times’ executive editor Dan Baquet said the move was “an action that is especially irresponsible at a time when the world needs the free and open flow of credible information about the coronavirus pandemic.”
The WSJ editor in chief Matt Murray said “trusted news reporting from and about China has never been more important. We oppose government interference with a free press anywhere in the world.”
The Washington Post’s executive editor Marty Baron said: “We unequivocally condemn any action by China to expel US reporters. The Chinese government’s decision is particularly regrettable because it comes in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, when clear and reliable information about the international response to COVID-19 is essential. Severely limiting the flow of that information, which China now seeks to do, only aggravates the situation.”
The backdrop of this expulsion is the ongoing trade war between the two economies, technological tensions, the underlying struggle for hegemony and more recently, heaping of blame on each other over the origin of the current coronavirus pandemic.
Journalism in China is hampered due to restrictions, scrutiny and the pressure by the authorities on foreign reporters along with limitations and threats on Chinese employees working for foreign media.
As a rule, Beijing believes that any information that deflects from the “official truth” is an attempt to taint China’s reputation and – for its citizens – censors most foreign media websites.