Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions,” Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday. “The correct response is to present counter-arguments, not restrict speech.”

Beijing has taken very badly an opinion piece published by the American daily newspaper entitled: “China is the real sick man of Asia”.

The Chinese government announced on Wednesday that it is withdrawing its press card from three journalists from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) accredited to China because of the title, which Beijing has deemed racist.

The three journalists have five days to leave the country, the WSJ said. It is one of the most radical measures taken by the communist regime against foreign media in years.

In the midst of a coronavirus epidemic, Beijing has very badly taken an opinion text of February 3 titled: “China is the real sick man of Asia”.

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.

“Our intention was not to offend with this title,” 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 about the Chinese, which we regret. ”

The manager recalled that the service that manages the page where external contributors can express their opinions was completely separate from the rest of the editorial staff.

The newspaper’s deputy director of the Beijing office, Josh Chin, and journalist Chao Deng, both American, are targeted, as well as an Australian reporter, Philip Wen, said the WSJ.

The term “sick man of Asia” is an old term used by some Westerners in the XIXth century to describe China. He is generally considered to be very offensive in this country.

The opinion piece, written by Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College, a prestigious American university, was alarmed by the risks posed by the coronavirus epidemic to the Chinese economy and, therefore, to the world.

He also criticized the slowness of the initial reaction of the Chinese authorities after the virus appeared in Wuhan, in central China, in December.

This text “defamed the efforts of the Chinese government and people in their fight against the epidemic,” condemned the spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy.

At the same time, China has deemed Washington’s new rules imposed on Chinese public media in the United States to be “unacceptable”””. The latter are now assimilated to diplomatic missions since they are considered as propaganda organs.

“We respectfully request that the Chinese Foreign Ministry return their visas to Philip Wen, Chao Deng, and Josh Chin,” said William Lewis, editor of the Wall Street Journal.

“The need for quality, reliable information from China is more important than ever,” said the official. “The decision, announced today, to target journalists from our editorial team hinders this mission. “

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