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China to expel American reporters after U.S. curbs its media

Ken Moritsugu
Associated Press

Beijing – China announced that it will revoke the media credentials of all American journalists at three major U.S. news organizations, in effect expelling them from the country, in response to new U.S. restrictions on Chinese state-controlled media.

The foreign ministry said early Wednesday that American citizens working for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post with credentials expiring before the end of the year must surrender their press cards within 10 days.

In this Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 file photo, a member of an honor guard wears a face mask as he stands guard in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. On Wednesday, March 17, 2020, China announced that it will revoke the media credentials of American journalists at three major U.S. news organizations, in effect expelling them from the country, in response to new U.S. restrictions on Chinese state-controlled media.

It is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat actions by the two governments as the Trump administration takes a more confrontational stance in dealing with China than his predecessors. The two countries remained enmeshed in a trade war despite a recent truce and have traded angry words over the coronavirus pandemic that emerged in China and has spread worldwide.

The move comes after the Trump administration designated five Chinese media outlets as foreign missions and restricted the number of Chinese who could work for them in a de facto expulsion of about one-third of their Chinese staff.

China described its steps as “necessary and reciprocal countermeasures that China is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the U.S.”

The American journalists will likely have to leave China because their visas are tied to their press credentials. They won’t be allowed to work in not only mainland China but also the semi-autonomous territories of Hong Kong and Macao, the foreign ministry said in a release posted after midnight on its website.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disputed the comparison between the U.S. and Chinese actions, telling reporters in Washington that they enjoy press freedoms that don’t exist in China.

“The individuals that we identified a few weeks back were not media that were acting here freely,” he said. “They were part of Chinese propaganda outlets. We’ve identified these as foreign missions under American law. These aren’t apples to apples, and I regret China’s decision today to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct free press operations.”

The U.S. announced earlier this month that five state-controlled Chinese media outlets would be restricted to 100 visas. It cited increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation of American and other foreign journalists working in China.