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The publishers of the country’s three most influential newspapers: the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post wrote an open letter to China requesting that Beijing reverse its decision to expel American journalists amid tensions with Washington.
China justified its actions as retaliation over new rules the Trump administration placed on Chinese reporters, including a 100 reporter cap from five state-run media outlets. The outlets had 160 reporters in total, meaning 60 will be sent back to China.
The open letter ran in a black-and-white banner ad on the New York Times' website early Tuesday and read, "Let journalists do their work."
The publishers wrote that they would protest the expulsions under normal circumstances, but the coronavirus outbreak makes journalism from the country all the more imperative.
They wrote that the decision is "uniquely damaging and reckless as the world continues the struggle to control this disease, a struggle that will require the free flow of reliable news and information."
China announced major news updates about the fight with the coronavirus on Tuesday and said it would lift most of the lockdown in Hubei province and in Wuhan by April 8.
“The media is collateral damage in a diplomatic dispute between the Chinese and U.S. governments, threatening to deprive the world of critical information at a perilous moment,” the letter read.
The letter was signed by William Lewis, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal; Fred Ryan, publisher of the Washington Post and A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times.
The Trump administration last month designated five state-run Chinese news outlets that operate in the United States as “foreign missions,” requiring them to register their properties and employees in the U.S.
China said it reserves the right to respond to what it called a mistaken policy.
The Times pointed out that all American journalists in the country whose press cards were set to expire in 2020 were told to turn them over within 10 days.
Last month, China said it revoked the press credentials of three reporters for the Journal over a headline for an opinion column deemed racist by the government.
The headline on the Journal’s opinion column referred to the current virus outbreak in China and called the country the “Real Sick Man of Asia.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the expulsions came after the Journal refused demands to “make an official apology and hold the persons involved accountable.”
Fox News' Barnini Chakraborty and the Associated Press contributed to this report