On February 3rd, an opinion article was published in the Wall Street Journal titled, China is the Real Sick Man of Asia, which led to the unfair expulsion of three Wall Street journalists, displaying the misuse of censorship the Chinese government abuses against foreign reporters.
Walter Russell Mead’s op-ed took a jab at China’s feeble financial markets and called out the way Wuhan’s government handled the Coronavirus crisis, stating it was “less than impressive” and they were “secretive and self-serving”.
Once the decision was made to expel American Wall Street Journal Deputy Bureau Chief Josh Chin, reporter Chao Deng and Australian reporter Philip Wen public, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang defended its actions deeming the op-ed piece “racially discriminatory” as said on Hong Kong Free Press.
After much thought, I began to ask myself: Was it really the opinions stated in the op-ed the real reason behind the journalist’s expulsion? Or was it a cover-up excuse?
“The Chinese people do not welcome those media that use racially discriminatory language and maliciously slander and attack China,” quoted Geng, continuing to defend China’s decision as mentioned on South China Morning Post.
It is no secret that China’s communist government tries to censor as much criticizing media that creates a not so pretty spotlight on them.
Despite having no contribution to the writing of the “sick man of Asia” op-ed, the three reporters had recently covered Xinjiang, an area in which millions of Muslims are being detained in detention camps, according to the South China Morning Post.
With the way China reacts to bad publicity, could the journalists’ coverage on the internment camps have been the cause of their expulsion from the country?
Chin, Deng, and Wen haven’t been the only reporters that have faced consequences for casting spotlight on issues the Chinese government keeps behind the scenes.
According to South China Morning Post, China denied to renew Singaporean Wall Street Journal reporter Chun Han Wong’s press card. Wong had previously co-written a piece with Wen discussing an investigation conducted on President Xi Jinping’s cousin, Ming Chai.
“Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions,” stated U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in response to China as mentioned on The Hill.
While wanting to set and maintain the best reputation for their country,, it is understandable that the leaders of a country would want to keep certain topics under wraps. Yet, the desire to keep a good reputation is nowhere near as important than allowing individuals their right to free speech.
“The correct response is to present counter-arguments, not restrict speech,” quoted Pompeo as said on The Hill.
Along with free speech being more important than keeping a good reputation, so is speaking on matters that may lead to catastrophic events.
Mead stated in his op-ed, “There are signs that Chinese authorities are still trying to conceal the true scale of the problem.”
“Many now fear the coronavirus will become a global pandemic,” said Mead later on in the op-ed.
That fear people all over the U.S. and Europe alike held has now become reality. Schools all around the world are closing and shelves at grocery stores are being wiped out all over again right after being restocked.
Each passing day, the Coronavirus situation worsens as death tolls rise and more tests come back positive. A disease that could have been contained if only it were brought to light without haste is now the only thing I seem to see on my social media timelines.
With Coronavirus going from an epidemic to a pandemic, it shows how important it is to allow free speech and take into account the effect an issue will have on the lives of people all over the world before acknowledging the effects it will have on your country’s stature.
Although coronavirus is nowhere near ready to say goodbye, we can only hope that this misfortune has opened the eyes of China’s government and the way they go about deciding what should go to the press and what should not.