BEIJING (Reuters) – China hit out at what it called "biased" reporting on Friday in a frosty response to a request by three major U.S. newspapers to reverse the expulsion of several of their China-based journalists.
China announced on March 18 it was revoking the press accreditations of all American journalists in the China bureaus of the New York Times (NYT.N), Wall Street Journal (NWSA.O) and Washington Post, which were due to expire at the end of 2020.
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In an open letter published earlier this week, the three publishers urged China to reconsider the move, saying it was "uniquely damaging and reckless" at a time when the world is sharing the burden of fighting the coronavirus.
China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website that it welcomed media and reporters from all countries to report in China "in accordance with laws and regulations" but that it did not accept "the arrogance and prejudice" it said was revealed in the letter of the three publishers.
The statement did not directly answer the newspapers' request but suggested Beijing was in no mood to accept it.
"The Chinese people do not welcome reports that are not objective and not fair," said the statement.
"Faced with the escalating political suppression and discriminatory practices of the United States, do you expect China to be merely a ‘silent lamb'"?
The ministry reiterated that the blame for the situation lay with Washington, rather than Beijing, for first restricting the number of Chinese media in the United States.
Last month, Washington demanded journalists from Chinese state media be registered as staff of diplomatic missions, saying it was a reponse to the growing crackdown on independent reporting in China.
China then expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters – two Americans and an Australian – after the paper published an opinion column calling China the "real sick man of Asia".
In early March, the United States ordered four Chinese news organisations to slash their staff by around a third, impacting 60 reporters.
The Foreign Ministry described the move as unreasonable and driven by "ideological bias".
The ministry also lashed out at the connection made in the letter between the timing of the journalists' expulsion and the need to report on China's coronavirus epidemic.
China has bristled at accusations by U.S. officials that it covered up the earlier stages of the virus, exacerbating tension between the world's top two economies.
(Reporting by Dominique Patton, Editing by William Maclean)