In Brief

China expels US media as stand-off escalates

Beijing’s tit-for-tat move raises fears about Hong Kong’s press freedoms

In an escalation of tension between two world superpowers, China is to expel three major US new outlets in retaliation against American restrictions on Chinese journalists.

The decision by China requires US citizens working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post to stop their work and hand in their press cards within 10 days, if their press credentials expire at the end of this year. 

It follows an announcement earlier this month that Washington was slashing the number of Chinese nationals permitted to work at the US offices of state-owned Chinese media outlets.

Washington’s decision came after what US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, described as Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists”.

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The retaliatory move by China is “a hugely damaging attack on foreign media coverage of the country” and an “escalation of the showdown over the press between Washington and Beijing”, reports The Guardian.

Both Chinese state media and US new outlets are currently involved in a tit-for-tat exchange over the origin of the coronavirus.

The NYT also notes that “reporters at foreign news outlets were among those who aggressively reported on the coronavirus pandemic in January and February”, during which time the Chinese government sought to downplay its severity.

The paper also highlights that foreign media has also reported on other issues deemed “extremely sensitive” by Chinese officials in the past year. This includes the mass internment of Chinese Muslims in the Xinjiang region and the “shadowy business dealings of family members of leaders, including President Xi Jinping”.

The latest move will “decimate some of the biggest newsrooms in China and force reporters with decades of experience covering the country to leave,” says the Guardian.

The banned reporters will also be barred from reporting from Hong Kong which has been gripped by nearly a year of protest directed against Beijing.

“That Beijing is preventing the expelled reporters from reporting from Hong Kong and Macau... is a sign of the further erosion of press freedoms in those territories,” adds the NYT.

The Washington Post reports that the move “widens another rift in US-China relations already strained by trade disputes”. 

The act of hostiliy also raises questions about how the world’s two biggest economies will “recalibrate their ties after the coronavirus pandemic”, the paper adds.

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