Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is condemning China for its decision to expel three reporters from The Wall Street Journal from the country.
"Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions," Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday. "The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech."
This came after China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said three journalists from the Journal would have their credentials revoked over the paper's recent headline, "China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia," The New York Times reports. The reporters weren't actually involved with the article, which was an opinion piece, but Beijing called the story "racist" and "malicious." The journalists, two of whom are American and one of whom is Australian, have been ordered to leave China within five days, although the Times notes it's not clear if that's possible, as one of is currently in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus.
Journal editor Matt Murray called China's actions "harsh and unprecedented," saying the paper "will continue in the coming days to push for this action to be reversed." The Foreign Correspondents' Club also called the expulsion "an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organizations." The Journal noted this is "the first time in the post-Mao era that the Chinese government has expelled multiple journalists from one international news organization at the same time."
Pompeo's condemnation came after he warned African countries in a speech Wednesday to "be wary of authoritarian regimes and their empty promises" in an apparent swipe at China. The State Department also told China Tuesday that five major Chinese news outlets will be treated as foreign state operatives by the United States going forward.