HONG KONG — China on Wednesday said it would revoke the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters working in mainland China, in a significant escalation of Beijing’s pressure on the foreign news media.
At a daily news briefing on Wednesday, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the credentials would be revoked in retaliation for a headline for an essay that ran in The Journal’s editorial pages earlier this month. The headline read, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
Chinese officials have “demanded that The Wall Street Journal recognize the seriousness of the error, openly and formally apologize, and investigate and punish those responsible, while retaining the need to take further measures against the newspaper,” Geng Shuang, the ministry spokesman, said in a transcript provided by the Chinese government.
“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and smear China with malicious attacks,” he added.
The Journal identified the reporters as Josh Chin, its deputy bureau chief in Beijing and an American national; Chao Deng, an American; and Philip Wen, an Australian national.
A spokesman for Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Journal, did not have an immediate comment.
Like other media organizations, including The New York Times, The Journal runs its news and editorial departments as separate operations, meaning none of the newspaper’s reporters in China would have been involved in writing the essay’s headline.
The move comes just months after Chinese officials effectively expelled another Journal reporter, Chun Han Wong, from mainland China. Officials did not provide a reason, but the expulsion came after he co-wrote an article about a cousin of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping.
It also comes less than one day after American officials in Washington said they would treat five government-controlled Chinese news organizations — Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and People’s Daily — as foreign government functionaries, subject to similar rules as diplomats stationed in the United States.
The opinion piece with the “Sick Man” headline was written by Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College. It criticized China’s initial response to the coronavirus outbreak as well as the state of the country’s financial markets.