The Wall Street Journal’s CEO said Wednesday the publication is “deeply disappointed” with China’s decision to expel three of its journalists over a piece published in the newspaper’s opinion section.
from William Lewis comes after China’s foreign ministry said the expulsions of Philip Wen, Chao Deng and Josh Chin were due to on a Wall Street Journal opinion piece written by Walter Russell Mead titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” a reference to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“We are deeply disappointed with today’s announcement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel three Wall Street Journal news reporters in response to a WSJ opinion piece published on February 3rd,” said Lewis, who noted that there is “a complete separation” between the news and opinion divisions at the newspaper.
“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,” Lewis added. “However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.”
He also requested that China’s Foreign Ministry reinstate the visas for the three journalists.
On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the opinion piece was racist and a malicious attack on China.
“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and maliciously attacks China,” he told reporters, according to Reuters. “In light of this, China has decided to revoke the press cards of the three Wall Street Journal correspondents in Beijing starting today.”
The move came the same day that the Trump administration designated five major Chinese media outlets with U.S. operations as official government entities, effectively calling them mouthpieces for Beijing.
The outlets designated by the U.S. as “foreign missions” were Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation and Hai Tian Development USA.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
on Wednesday condemned China’s expulsion of the three journalists.
“Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions,” Pompeo said in a statement. “The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech. The United States hopes that the Chinese people will enjoy the same access to accurate information and freedom of speech that Americans enjoy.”
Updated at 12:11 p.m.