China said Tuesday it is expelling reporters from three major U.S. newspapers — The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal — in response to what officials say is “unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media agencies.”
In addition, Beijing ordered two other news outlets, Time magazine and the independent U.S.-funded Voice of America news operation, to give Chinese authorities detailed information about their work in China.
The press credentials for the Times, Journal and Post reporters were set to expire at year’s end, but Beijing ordered them to turn in their press cards within 10 days.
China said the U.S. journalists “will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People’s Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.” The two territories are semi-autonomous and there supposedly is more freedom of the press than that in mainland China.
Pompeo, news organizations object
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assailed the Chinese action, saying, “I regret China’s decision today to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct free press operations that frankly would be really good for the Chinese people. This is unfortunate. I hope they’ll reconsider.”
The reporters for the three news outlets had aggressively reported on the coronavirus outbreak that originated in China, when it was at first a regional health issue that has transformed into a global pandemic with devastating ramifications.
The three newspapers have also reported on other issues that Chinese authorities consider sensitive, including the internment of Muslims in the Xinjiang region and the business affairs of Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping.
New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet deplored the expulsion of the reporters, saying it was “especially irresponsible at a time when the world needs the free and open flow of credible information about the coronavirus pandemic.”
Top editors at the Journal and Post also condemned the Chinese action.
A VOA statement joined its U.S. media counterparts in condemnation of China’s restrictions on free press.
“In common with our colleagues at The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, we remain committed to our work in China and condemn attempts to curtail it. We are committed to continuing to serve as a consistently reliable, trusted and authoritative source of news to our Chinese-speaking audiences,” VOA said.
In February, the U.S. said that five state-run Chinese news organizations – Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio and People’s Daily – would be limited to a total of 100 Chinese citizens who could work in the U.S.
In announcing the curbs on the U.S. news outlets, China said it was compelled to take the action because of the “unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the U.S.”
China also said the China-based operations of five U.S. media outlets must submit written information about their staffing, finances and real estate in China.
Pompeo said the individuals affected by the U.S. decision “were not media that were acting here freely, (but) were part of Chinese propaganda outlets. We've identified these as foreign missions under American law.”