BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China announced early on Wednesday that it was retaliating against U.S. restrictions on Chinese journalists, with actions that include rescinding the press credentials of American correspondents with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
The move escalates a tit-for-tat between China and the United States over resident foreign media that saw Washington this month slash the number of Chinese nationals permitted to work at the U.S. offices of major Chinese state-owned media outlets.
In a statement released in the early hours of Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said U.S. citizens who work as journalists for the three organizations and whose press credentials expire by the end of this year must hand back their press cards within ten days and would not be permitted to work in mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau.
It was not immediately clear how many journalists would be affected.
China also said that “in the spirit of reciprocity,” the China branches of Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Time magazine must “declare in written form information about their staff, finance, operation and real estate in China.”
China also said it will take further “reciprocal measures against American journalists”, without giving specifics.
“We unequivocally condemn any action by China to expel U.S. reporters,” said Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron in a statement. “The Chinese government’s decision is particularly regrettable because it comes in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, when clear and reliable information about the international response to COVID-19 is essential.”
Representatives from the New York Times, owned by the New York Times Co <NYT.N>, and News Corp <NWSA.O>-owned Wall Street Journal could not immediately be reached for comment.
Beijing said the moves “are entirely necessary and reciprocal countermeasures that China is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the United States.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at a State Department news conference that the move would deprive the world and the Chinese people of information in “incredibly challenging” times brought about by the coronavirus.
“This is unfortunate... I hope they’ll reconsider,” he said.
In cutting the number of Chinese nationals permitted to work for state media firms in the United States this month, Washington said it was retaliating for what it called Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists”.
Last month, Beijing expelled three Wall Street Journal correspondents, including two Americans and an Australian.
“The action taken against The Journal correspondents is an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organizations by taking retribution against their China-based correspondents,” said the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China in a statement at the time.
(Reporting by Tony Munroe in Beijing and Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom in Washington, additional reporting by Helen Coster in New York.; Editing by Gareth Jones and Rosalba O’Brien)