China revoked the press credentials of three journalists of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Feb. 19, as an objection to the headline of its opinion column about COVID-19 epidemic, reported ABC news.

The op-ed calling China the “real sick man of Asia,” by Bard College professor Walter Russel Mead was opined as racist and undermining China’s effort to combat COVID-19 by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Beijing also criticized the paper for not offering apologies nor holding those involved accountable.

“The editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a statement.

In response, Wall Street Journal Publisher William Lewis expressed “deep disappointment” with Beijing’s action and explained that the op-ed does not reflect the paper’s opinion and that it has no intention of drawing attention to the offense, which apparently has displeased China.

Lewis also raised concern that Beijing’s step would hinder the effort of truthful and quality reporting on China, which is now needed more than ever. 

The three targeted journalists: Deputy Bureau Chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, who are both Americans, and reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, were ordered to leave China within five days, said the Journal.

The publisher also made clear that none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with the identified op-ed article.

It is not the first time that the WSJ has been targeted, last fall, its Beijing-based Journal reporter Chun Han Wong, was also deprived of press credentials over a story of an Australian investigation into the alleged links of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s cousin to high-stakes gambling, money laundering, and suspected organized crime, which Beijing deemed “evil intention to smear and attack China.”

This year, China restated, “The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and maliciously attack China.” in Geng Shuang’s statement. 

This move attests to China’s stark stance on what it sees affecting its “national territory, sovereignty, or dignity,” as repeatedly stated by Xi. 

It is also believed to be the retaliation for Washington’s latest action designating five Chinese media companies as state-sponsored propaganda of the Communist Party of China.

The designation, that goes into effect immediately, involves the following five companies: Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation, and Hai Tian Development USA.

“These five newly designated entities are not independent news organizations—they are effectively controlled by the [People’s Republic of China],” read one of the documents of the U.S. State Department.

“These five entities all meet the definition of a foreign mission under the Foreign Missions Act, which is to say that they are ‘substantially owned or effectively controlled’ by a foreign government,” in this case the Chinese communist regime, added the document.

In response, China called it a mistaken policy and claimed that it reserves the right to “make a further response.”

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