China expels Wall Street Journal reporters over ‘racist’ headline on coronavirus op-ed

China’s authorities revoked the press credentials and ordered the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters Wednesday in retaliation for a headline on a recent opinion column about coronavirus that Beijing said was racist. 

The Journal identified the journalists as Josh Chin, its deputy bureau chief in Beijing, and reporter Chao Deng, both U.S. nationals. Another reporter, Philip Wen, is an Australian citizen. They were ordered to leave the country within five days. The paper reported its own story on the incident but did not respond to a request for comment.  

At a regularly scheduled news briefing Wednesday a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said China objected to an essay published in the Journal’s editorial pages earlier this month with the headline, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”

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“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and smear China with malicious attacks,” Geng Shuang, the spokesman, said. He said China demanded The Journal apologize, investigate and punish those responsible. 

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. 

Like many American newspapers, including USA TODAY, the opinion pages of the Journal are run separately from the news department. This means that none of the Journal’s news staff would have been involved in commissioning or editing Mead’s column, or writing the headline. Like most foreign media, the Journal is not available in China and its website and stories are blocked by its so-called Great Firewall: censors.

Chinese authorities have previously declined to issue or renew credentials for international journalists but this appears to be the very first time in recent years that it has actively revoked credentials, effectively expelling them from the country. 

The incident comes a day after the Trump administration said it will begin treating five major Chinese state-run media entities with U.S. operations – Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and Hai Tian Development – as foreign embassies. It will require them to register their employees and U.S. property with the U.S. State Department.

From: USA Today

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