At least 13 American journalists stand to be expelled from China in retaliation for a new visa limit imposed by the Trump administration on Chinese state-owned media operating in the US.
The Chinese government announced that Americans working at three major US newspapers will have to surrender their press cards within 10 days. They will all but certainly have to leave the country, as their visas are tied to their media credentials.
The number of affected journalists at the papers — the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post — is at least 13 and could be higher depending on how broadly the group is defined, said the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC).
It would be by far the largest expulsion of foreign journalists from China in recent memory.
“There are no winners in the use of journalists as diplomatic pawns by the world’s two preeminent economic powers,” the FCCC said in a statement.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang described the move as “necessary countermeasures that China is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organisations experience in the US”.
He warned: “If the United States insists on walking farther down the wrong path, China will be forced to take further countermeasures.”
The US announced earlier this month that five of China’s state-controlled media outlets would be restricted to 100 visas, the de facto expelling of about 60 journalists. It cited increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation of American and other foreign journalists working in China.
The outlets employ about 160 Chinese citizens in the US and include the official Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network, the overseas arm of state broadcaster CCTV.
Americans at the three newspapers whose credentials expire this year will have to give up their press cards. They will also be barred from working in the semi-autonomous Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macao, the foreign ministry said.
Until Wednesday’s announcement, China had expelled nine foreign journalists since 2013, the FCCC said.
The dramatic step, which shocked foreign journalists in China, is the latest retaliatory move in a series of disputes between Beijing and Washington.
The two sides remain enmeshed in a tariff and trade war despite a recent truce and have traded angry words over the coronavirus pandemic that emerged in China and has spread worldwide.
Chinese state media echoed the government line that the US bears responsibility for the dispute.
“The impact of the US move will not be limited to the field of media, but will create negative overall effects and new uncertainties to the relationship,” the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said in an editorial.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo disputed the comparison between the US and Chinese actions, describing the Chinese media companies as propaganda outlets.
“We’ve identified these as foreign missions under American law,” he said. “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.”