by WorldTribune Staff, March 18, 2020
The communist government in Beijing should be focused on stopping the coronavirus rather than spreading false information about the origins of the Wuhan virus while at the same time kicking American journalists out of China, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) said on Wednesday.
The statement from the NSC comes after China announced it would expel American journalists working for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.
“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 NSC said in a statement. “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.”
Related: Propaganda 101: China blames America for coronavirus in what may be veiled threat, March 17, 2020
Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping is “terrified of a free and independent press because he doesn’t want to be challenged when his government regularly spews insane propaganda,” Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Chairman Xi can expel all the real journalists he wants, but he can’t change the fact that his coronavirus cover-up killed thousands of his own people and put the world at risk.”
Chinese medical authorities reportedly put a gag order on Wuhan labs that discovered the new coronavirus in December, and Wuhan government officials have reprimanded doctors who tried to warn friends and family of the virus.
The New York Times noted that, along with expelling the American journalists, China “also demanded that those outlets, as well as the Voice of America and Time magazine, provide the Chinese government with detailed information about their operations. The announcement went on to say that the American journalists now working in mainland China ‘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 two territories are semi-autonomous and in theory have greater press freedoms than the mainland.”
Matt Murray, editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, tweeted: “China’s unprecedented attack on freedom of the press comes at a time of unparalleled global crisis. Trusted news reporting from and about China has never been more important. We oppose government interference with a free press anywhere in the world. Our commitment to reporting fully and deeply on China is unchanged.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters: “I regret China’s decision today to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct free press operations that frankly would be really good for the Chinese people. This is unfortunate. I hope they’ll reconsider.”
Meanwhile, Chinese propaganda outlets have been pushing a theory that the Wuhan coronavirus may have originated in the United States.
Elizabeth C. Economy, a senior fellow and director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Times: “The danger for Xi Jinping is that as the virus spreads globally, the role that China’s system of governance played in delaying a timely response will face growing scrutiny and criticism from the international community,” adding that the propaganda was “a last-ditch effort by Xi to deflect blame and avoid a demand by the international community for an honest accounting of what actually transpired.”