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."
Beijing also announced it would be kicking out journalists with U.S. citizenship working with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post whose press credentials were set to expire before the end of 2020. The government has given those journalists four calendar days to notify the Department of Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and say they needed to turn in their press cards within 10 calendar days.
"They 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 statement read.
China called its tough new rules "legitimate and justified self-defense in every sense."
"We strongly condemn the decision of the Chinese authorities to expel American journalists, an action that is especially irresponsible at a time when the world needs the free and open flow of credible information about the coronavirus pandemic," New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said in a statement. "It is a grave mistake for China to move backwards and cut itself off from several of the world’s top news organizations."
In a statement made available to Fox News, Voice of America said it strongly condemned China's actions, adding that "such restrictions on the free press are wrong and we stand firm in our commitment to free press operations in China and around the world."
Last month, China revoked the press credentials of three Beijing-based Wall Street Journal news reporters over an opinion piece which referred to the most populous country in the world as "the real sick man of Asia" in a headline. The Journal, like most news outlets, runs separate news and opinion operations that do not overlap. However, that didn't stop China from booting out Deputy Bureau Chief Josh Chin, reporter Chao Deng, both U.S. nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian national.
Fox News' Mike Arroyo, John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.