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China expels Wall Street Journal reporters for ‘Sick Man’ headline

February 19, 2020

China said Wednesday it has revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters over an editorial headline it deemed racist, with the newspaper adding they had been ordered to leave in five days.

The expulsion, one of its harshest moves against foreign media in recent years, came as Beijing also slammed Washington’s decision to tighten rules on Chinese state media organisations in the US, calling the move “unreasonable and unacceptable.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Journal editorial — which was titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” — had a “racially discriminatory” and “sensational” headline, and slammed the newspaper for not issuing an official apology.

“As such, China has decided that from today, the press cards of three Wall Street Journal reporters in Beijing will be revoked,” Geng told a press briefing.

The Journal reported that deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both US nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, had been ordered to leave the country in five days.

The editorial, written by Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead, also criticised the Chinese government’s initial response to the new coronavirus outbreak — calling the Wuhan city government at the virus epicentre “secretive and self-serving”, while dismissing national efforts as ineffective.

The February 3 piece “slandered the efforts of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to fight the epidemic”, said Geng.

The new coronavirus epidemic has killed over 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000, and has spread to at least two dozen countries around the world.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.