Mike Pompeo denounces China expulsions of WSJ reporters
The U.S. on Wednesday condemned China's expulsion of three Wall Street Journal newspaper foreign correspondents. "The United States condemns China's expulsion of three Wall Street Journal foreign correspondents. Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday denounced China's expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters and urged Beijing to respect freedom of the press.
"Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions. The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech," Pompeo said in a statement.
The editorial that ignited the incident - headlined "China is the real sick man of Asia" - criticized Beijing's handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Author Walter Russell Mead, a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College, accused the government of "trying to conceal the true scale" of the epidemic and acting in a way that was "secretive and self-serving."
"Sick man of Asia" was a term applied to China in the late 19th and early 20th century, when the country was preyed upon by Western powers and Japan and driven apart by internal strife.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earlier demanded an apology for the "racially discriminatory title".
It is the first time in more than two decades that China has outright expelled a foreign correspondent. In recent years, authorities there have tended to refuse to renew visas, according to the Foreign Correspondent's Club of China.
By withdrawing their press cards, the Chinese government is also rescinding the visas and residency permits linked to those credentials, effectively forcing the journalists out of the country.
Deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both US nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian national, have all been ordered to leave China within five days.
The newspaper issued a statement from editor-in-chief Matt Murray saying the three reporters "represent the best traditions of the Journal," and vowing to continue to cover China.
"Let no one doubt that The Wall Street Journal remains fully committed to covering China, with the highest standards of news reporting. We will continue to write about China, without fear or favour and with no agenda but the truth," Murray said.
Although China has often expelled reporters critical of the government before by not renewing their visas, the decision to expel multiple reporters from the same international publication, for a opinion piece they did not pen, is an exceptional move as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
"None of the three reporters had any involvement with the opinion article, or its headline," wrote the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China in a statement, decrying what it called "an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organizations."
It comes on the same day that the US government identified five Chinese media organizations as state operatives controlled by Beijing.
The designation will apply to, among others: the government-run news agency Xinhua; state broadcaster CGTN; and the Chinese Communist Party's newspaper People's Daily. It will require their employees to register with the US State Department, just as embassy and consular staff do.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was "unreasonable and unacceptable for the US to interfere in and obstruct normal operation of Chinese media organizations in America," warning that Chinese officials "reserve the right to make further responses."