The Chinese government ordered press credentials suspended on Wednesday for three Wall Street Journal reporters after the newspaper published an opinion column about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
China made its decision to suspend the press credentials of the Wall Street Journal reporters after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang criticized the opinion column as racist, the Associated Press reported. Geng said the Chinese government decided to move forward with suspending the press credentials after the Wall Street Journal refused to apologize for the headline.
The opinion article in question, titled “China Is The Real Sick Man of Asia,” was written by columnist Walter Russell Mead.
The term “sick man of Asia” began as a term describing China around the turn of the 20th century, when the country was weakened by internal divisions and pressured by Japanese, Russian and Western nations to sign a series of “unequal treaties” that further undermined its power.
“The editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community,” Geng said.
As a response to the terms resurfaced use in an opinion column, China stripped press credentials for Wall Street Journal Deputy Bureau Chief Josh Chin, reporter Chao Deng — both U.S. citizens — and reporter Philip Wen, an Australian. The Chinese government further ordered the three journalists to leave the country within five days.
“The action taken against The Journal correspondents is an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organizations by taking retribution against their China-based correspondents,” the Wall Street Journal said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal statement also claimed its reporters in China have faced “harassment, surveillance and intimidation from authorities.”
Mead’s controversial column criticized China’s initial response to the recent coronavirus outbreak as “less than impressive.” Mead warned of the virus’s continued impact on Chinese society, forces factories and commercially active cities to shut down.
He said the short term effect of the virus may be a “sharp fall in Chinese economic growth rates.” Mead also said the long term economic lesson from the coronavirus may be a need for global companies to “de-Sinicize” their supply chains, preventing future potential issues in China from disrupting international business.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus throughout the country has fueled concerns about the Chinese government’s lack of transparency over the virus’s origin and what is being done to prevent it.
Other reporters attempting to find more information about the spread of the coronavirus in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where an estimated 1.8 million religious minority Uyghurs have been detained, were told some information was being kept as a “state secret” and could not be disclosed.
Concerns have also grown about the disappearances of some journalists and professors who have raised questions about the coronavirus.