China has revoked the press credentials of three journalists from the Wall Street Journal after the newspaper declined to apologise for a column that called China the “real sick man of Asia”, the foreign ministry has said.
Spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing on Wednesday that Beijing made several representations to the paper over the column, which China criticised as racist and denigrating its efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic, but that the paper had failed to apologise or investigate those responsible.
The deputy bureau chief, Josh Chin, and reporter Chao Deng, both Americans, and reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, have been ordered to leave the country within five days. None of the three journalists had any involvement with column or its headline, according to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China.
“The action taken against the Journal correspondents is an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organisations by taking retribution against their China-based correspondents,” the FCCC said in a statement, adding that a foreign correspondent had not been expelled since 1998.
The FCCC said nine journalists had been effectively expelled through non-renewal of journalist visas from China since 2013.
“Simultaneously revoking press credentials of three correspondents is an unprecedented form of retaliation against foreign journalists in China,” it said.
“FCCC member correspondents and their colleagues in China are suffering from an increasing frequency of harassment, surveillance and intimidation from authorities. The expulsion of these three WSJ reporters is only the latest, and most alarming, measure authorities have taken.”
The action comes after the US said on Tuesday it would begin treating five major Chinese state-run media entities with US 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 US properties with the state department.
Geng said China opposed the new rules and Beijing reserved the right to respond.
The three Wall Street Journal reporters have reported on human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Deng has been reporting from Wuhan on China’s handling of the coronavirus while Wen previously co-authored a report on a cousin of Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whose activities are being scrutinised by Australian authorities. The co-author of that report, another Wall Street Journal reported, was forced to leave China in August.