CHINACOURTESY, WALL STEET JOURNAL — China revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters based in Beijing, the first time the Chinese government has expelled multiple journalists simultaneously from one international news organization since the country began re-engaging with the world in the post-Mao era.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the move Wednesday was punishment for a recent opinion piece published by the Journal.
Deputy Bureau Chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both U.S. nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian national, were ordered to leave the country within five days, said Jonathan Cheng, the Journal’s China bureau chief.
The expulsions by China’s Foreign Ministry followed widespread public anger at the headline on the Feb. 3 opinion piece, which referred to China as “the real sick man of Asia.” The ministry and state-media outlets had repeatedly called attention to the headline in statements and posts on social media and had threatened unspecified consequences.
“Regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but parrying and dodging its responsibility,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing Wednesday. “The Chinese people do not welcome those media that speak racially discriminatory language and maliciously slander and attack China.”
The three journalists work for the Journal’s news operation. The Journal operates with a strict separation between its news and opinion staffs.
William Lewis, the Journal’s publisher and chief executive of its parent company, Dow Jones, said he was disappointed by the decision to expel the journalists and asked the Foreign Ministry to reconsider.
“This opinion piece was published independently from the WSJ newsroom and none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with it,” Mr. 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,” Mr. Lewis said. “However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.”
Dow Jones is owned by News Corp.
In a note to news staff, Editor in Chief Matt Murray said the Journal would push to reverse the expulsions and continue its work covering China’s rise as a global force.
“Let no one doubt that The Wall Street Journal remains fully committed to covering China, with the highest standards of news reporting,” Mr. Murray wrote. “We will continue to write about China, without fear or favor and with no agenda but the truth.”
— Excerpted in the public interest from the Wall Street Journal, with headquarters in New York.