Three Western journalists with The Wall Street Journal have been ordered to leave China within five days after their newspaper published a story which alleged the People’s Republic was the “real sick man of Asia.”
The expulsion of the American newspaper’s deputy bureau chief in Beijing, Josh Chin, reporter Chao Deng — both Americans — and Australian reporter Philip Wen was described by the White House as an attack on free speech.
“Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions. The correct response is to present counter-arguments, not restrict speech,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Chinese government spokesman Geng Shuang said the expulsions were in response to a column headlined “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” published on Feb. 3 and written by academic Walter Russell Mead. Geng described the article as “racist” and as an attack on China.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) noted that none of the three journalists had anything to do with the piece and said it was the first time in 20 years that correspondents had been expelled outright and had their press credentials revoked.
“The action taken against the correspondents is an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate news organizations by taking retribution against their China-based correspondents,” the FCCC said in a statement.
It said another nine journalists had been effectively expelled since 2013 once Chinese authorities refused to renew their visas.
“The expulsion of these three WSJ reporters is only the latest, and most alarming, measure authorities have taken,” it said.
In the United States, the National Press Club (NPC) and the National Journalism Press Club Institute urged Beijing to reconsider the expulsions.
“This type of retaliation is unworthy of a major world power,” said Michael Freedman, NPC president. “Allowing a free exchange of ideas, including those we disagree with, is a mark of a healthy, strong nation.”