China on Thursday defended expelling three foreign journalists of the Wall Street Journal, saying that media which insults, smears the country and support racial discrimination “must pay the price”.
China on Wednesday expelled three journalists of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) following an article in the newspaper titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia” by Walter Russell Mead published on February 3 as the country was fighting an all-out war against the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 2,000 people.
China’s Foreign Ministry revoked the press cards of three WSJ journalists (two Americans and one Australian) and asked them to leave the country within five days.
The move had come less than a day after US officials announced they would be treating five major Chinese state-run media companies — Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily and People’s Daily –as effective extensions of the Chinese government.
Asked whether the expulsion was solely because of the headline of the article or in retaliation to US government’s decision to list five Chinese official media outlets as foreign missions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang told during an online media briefing that “those media who blatantly insult China, supports racial discrimination and maliciously smear China must pay the price”.
“I also responded to the US announcement of designating five Chinese media organisations as foreign missions yesterday (Wednesday). We reserve the right to make further responses,” he said.
The expulsion of the three journalists was condemned by the US, saying mature and responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinion.
Geng also attacked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for condemning the WSJ scribes’ expulsions and his call to China to not restrict freedom of speech.
“This is not an issue of freedom of speech as Pompeo claimed. The WSJ published an article that smeared China with a racially discriminatory title, which reflects the abandonment of basic facts and professional ethics. It has triggered huge indignation and condemnation from China and the larger international community,” he said.
“As a self-proclaimed champion of freedom of speech, does Pompeo believe such freedom entails publishing a racist, discriminatory and insulting article with no apologies whatsoever?,” Geng asked.
“I want to ask Pompeo this question if you think the WSJ has the right to insult others arbitrarily, do those got insulted have the right to fight back?,” he said.
William Lewis, the publisher of the Journal and the CEO of WSJ parent company Dow Jones, expressed “regret” in a statement hours after the expulsions were announced.
Lewis said that the opinion and news divisions of the Journal are separate entities.
“The news department’s role is to provide facts and analysis, while the Opinion department’s role is to provide opinion and commentary. They are separately staffed,” Lewis said.
“Our opinion pages regularly publish articles with opinions that people disagree – or agree with – and it was not our intention to cause offense with the headline on the piece. However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret,” he added.
About Lewis’ statement expressing regret, Geng said: “As we speak, the journal still hasn’t realised the severity of its mistake. It has neither made an official apology publicly nor held anyone accountable. We urge it to treat our concerns seriously and respond to our demands. We reserve the right to take further measures”.
Asked why China chose to expel the journalists who are no way connected with the article, Geng said: “We are not interested in the division of work within the WSJ”.
“There is only one media agency called the WSJ, and it must be responsible for what it has said and done”, he asserted.
The coronavirus epidemic that brokeout in China has so far claimed the lives of over 2,118 people with over 74,000 confirmed cases.
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