China has ordered the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters as criticism mounts over the country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has so far killed more than 2,000 people and infected close to 75,000 others.
The order, which escalates Beijing’s fraught relations with foreign media, came late on Wednesday after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the publication of racism for publishing an opinion piece with the headline, China is the Real Sick Man of Asia.
“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and smear China with malicious attacks,” Geng Shuang, the foreign ministry spokesman, said at a press conference.
The Journal’s deputy Beijing bureau chief, Josh Chin, and reporters Chao Deng and Philip Wen, however, were not involved in writing the opinion piece that Beijing found offensive. Like most media organisations, the publication’s opinion section and the news department operate separately.
In a statement, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said the decision was an “extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organisations by taking retribution against their China-based correspondents”.