China revokes press passes for 3 WSJ reporters over ‘discriminatory’ op-ed

February 19, 2020, 9:45 AM UTC

China revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters following a dispute over a controversial headline in an article for the newspaper’s opinion section.

The government made the decision after it said the Journal refused to apologize for a “racially discriminatory” op-ed, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday. Foreign journalists need press passes issued by the foreign ministry to qualify for visas to report in the country.

The Feb. 3 article described China as the “sick man of Asia,” a phrase often used by 19th century European powers to describe the weakened state of the Qing Empire, which then governed China. A representative for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing didn’t immediately reply to an email requesting comment.

The op-ed ran as China began battling the deadly coronavirus, which has now claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people and delivered a massive setback to the world’s second-biggest economy. The government has described the virus as a threat to “social stability” in China, tightening restrictions on online expression and imprisoning citizen journalists who have reported on the topic.

“The editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community,” Geng told reporters in an online press conference. “China demands the WSJ recognize the severity of its mistake, make an official apology and hold the persons involved accountable.”

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