China on Wednesday withdrawn the press credentials for three Wall Street Journal reporters in the country in retaliation for an editorial in the newspaper deemed offensive by authorities.
The op-ed, headlined China is the real sick man of Asia, criticised Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Author Walter Russell Mead, a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College, accused the government of trying to conceal the true scale of the epidemic and acting in a way that was secretive and self-serving.
Sick man of Asia was a term applied to China in the late 19th and early 20th century, when it was preyed upon by Western powers and Japan and driven apart by internal strife.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earlier demanded an apology for the racially discriminatory title.
By withdrawing their press cards, the Chinese government is also rescinding their visas and resident permits based on these credentials, effectively forcing them out of the country.
Deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both U.S nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian national, have all been ordered to leave China within five days.
Although, China has often expelled reporters before for work critical of the government, the decision to expel multiple reporters from the same international publication, for a opinion piece they did not pen, is an exceptional move as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak.