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China has proved to be quite the conundrum during the coronavirus outbreak.
At first, the country seemed reluctant in acknowledging the severity of the disease. Recently however, China has been forthcoming with data related to the spread and development of the virus.
Out of almost nowhere though, China announced on Tuesday that American journalists would be forced to leave the country.
While China blames US restrictions for their drastic measures, the extraordinary move by China begs the questions as to if China perhaps has another reason at hand.
Take a look at the latest:
The New York Times reports:
In a sharp escalation of tensions between the two superpowers, China announced on Tuesday that it would expel American journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. It also demanded that those outlets, as well as the Voice of America and Time magazine, provide the Chinese government with detailed information about their operations.
The announcement, made by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came weeks after the Trump administration limited to 100 the number of Chinese citizens who can work in the United States for five state-run Chinese news organizations that are widely considered propaganda outlets.
China instructed American journalists for the three news organizations whose press credentials are due to expire this year to “notify the Department of Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within four calendar days starting from today and hand back their press cards within ten calendar days.” Almost all the China-based journalists for the three organizations have press cards that expire this year.
The announcement went on to say that the American journalists now working in mainland China “will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People’s Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.” The two territories are semiautonomous and in theory have greater press freedoms than the mainland.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the decisions “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 U.S.”
The statement also accused the United States of “exclusively targeting Chinese media organizations,” adding that it was “driven by a Cold War mentality.” The new limits imposed by the Trump administration effectively forced 60 Chinese employees of the state-run organizations to leave the country.
Reporters at foreign news outlets in China were among those who aggressively reported on the coronavirus epidemic in January and February, including in its earliest days, when it was a regionalized outbreak in central China and the Chinese government sought to play down its severity.
The news organizations have also reported in the past year on other issues deemed extremely sensitive by Chinese officials, including the mass internment of Muslims in the Xinjiang region and the shadowy business dealings of family members of leaders, including President Xi Jinping.
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, condemned the expulsion of U.S. reporters in a statement, calling it “especially irresponsible at a time when the world needs the free and open flow of credible information about the coronavirus pandemic.”
Fox News added:
China on Tuesday escalated its tit-for-tat propaganda war with the United States over who's to blame for the spread of the coronavirus by placing restrictive measures on several top media companies including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, prompting strong opposition from the Trump administration.
It's just the latest move by Beijing to punish the U.S. for its reporting on the global pandemic, the origin of which has been traced back to Wuhan, China.
"The Chinese Communist Party’s decision to expel journalists from China and Hong Kong is yet another step toward depriving the Chinese people and the world of access to true information about China," the National Security Council tweeted. "The United States calls on China’s leaders to refocus their efforts from expelling journalists and spreading disinformation to joining all nations in stopping the Wuhan coronavirus."
In a statement, China claimed the new restrictions on U.S. reporters were a retaliation against the Trump administration for putting caps on the number of journalists from five Chinese state-run media outlets working in the United States last month.
A spokesperson from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the U.S. of "purposely making things difficult" for Chinese reporters and subjecting them to "growing discrimination and politically-motivated oppression."
In response, China now has been demanding written information about journalists and their bosses at the China-based branches of Voice of America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Time magazine, including their finances and real estate holdings in China.
"The individuals that we identified a few weeks back were not media that were acting here freely," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday. "They were part of Chinese propaganda outlets. We've identified these as foreign missions under American law. These aren't apples to apples, and I regret China's decision today to further foreclose the world's ability to conduct free press operations."
Also, check out the news video of the announcement: