BEIJING (AP) – China on Wednesday said it has revoked the press credentials of three reporters for the U.S. newspaper Wall Street Journal over a headline for an opinion column deemed by the government to be racist and slanderous.
The move follows a complaint over the headline, which referred to the current virus outbreak in China and called the country the â€œReal Sick Man of Asia.”
In a statement Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Feb. 3 op-ed by Bard College Professor Walter Russel Mead â€œsmears the efforts of the Chinese government and people on fighting (the virus) epidemic.â€
â€œThe editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community,â€ he said.
Like most foreign media, the Wall Street Journal is unavailable within China and its website and stories are blocked by online censors.
China has in recent years refused to issue or renew credentials for foreign journalists, but this is the first time in recent memory that it has actually revoked their documents, effectively expelling them from the country.
That reflects a new hard line in foreign affairs in which China has sought to exact economic and diplomatic costs from companies and countries that donâ€™t follow its policies over Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, human rights and other sensitive issues.
President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that China will make no concessions when it comes to national territory, sovereignty or dignity.
In one recent case, China cut commercial ties with the U.S. National Basketball Association after an official with the Houston Rockets team tweeted support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters whom China has derided as separatists.
This story has been corrected to show that the article was an opinion piece, not an editorial.