In the midst of an epidemic of viral pneumonia, Beijing has very badly taken a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial of February 3 titled: “China is the real sick man of Asia”, a title that Beijing considered racist.
For this reason, the Chinese government announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing the press card from three WSJ journalists accredited to China. They have five days to leave the country.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday condemned the “evictions”. “Sane and responsible countries understand that the free press reports facts and expresses opinions. The proper answer is to present contrary arguments, not to restrict freedom of expression, ”he said in a statement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Wednesday that the title was “racially discriminatory” and “sensationalist”. He blamed the WSJ for failing to apologize for Beijing’s demands.
The measure is the deputy director of the Beijing office of the newspaper, Josh Chin, and journalist Chao Deng, both of American nationality, as well as an Australian reporter, Philip Wen, said the WSJ.
A historically derogatory expression
The expression “sick man from Asia” is an ancient term used by some Westerners since the 19th century to describe China. He is generally considered to be very offensive in this country.
The editorial, written by Walter Russell Mead, professor at Bard College, a prestigious American university, was alarmed by the risks that the coronavirus epidemic poses to the Chinese economy and, consequently, to the world. He also criticized the slow initial reaction of the Chinese authorities after the virus appeared in Wuhan in central China in December.
“Our intention was not to offend with this title,” for his part reacted William Lewis, chief executive of the Dow Jones group, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, in a statement sent to AFP. “Anyway, it clearly upset and worried the Chinese, which we regret. “
The official recalled that the opinion service of the Wall Street Journal, which manages the galleries, was completely separate from the rest of the editorial staff.
According to the spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, this text “defamed the efforts of the Chinese government and people in their fight against the epidemic” e. China has at the same time deemed “unacceptable” the new rules – announced Tuesday – imposed by Washington on the Chinese public media in the United States, now assimilated to diplomatic missions because considered as propaganda organs.
The Beijing regime is also regularly accused of using censorship by NGOs, such as Amnesty International. Two citizen journalists who denounced and filmed the disastrous management of the Chinese authorities during the first days in Wuhan are still missing. One of them, Fang Bin, was sent to quarantine, according to relatives. He had filmed crowded emergency corridors as well as mortuary fridges piled up with bags hiding corpses, according to him.