Washington: The US on Wednesday condemned China's decision expelling three Wall Street Journal correspondents, saying mature and responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinion.
The move is seen by many as a retaliation by Beijing after the Trump administration designated five Chinese state-run media organisations as foreign missions.
The Chinese media outlets designated as foreign agents are Xinhua News Agency; China Global Television Network which falls under China Central Television, CCTV; China Radio International; China Daily Distribution Corporation; and Hai Tian Development USA, which is the distributor for the People's Daily in the United States.
Hours later, China announced the expulsion of three correspondents of The Wall Street Journal. "The United States condemns China's expulsion of three Wall Street Journal foreign correspondents. Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Pompeo said that the correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech. "The United States hopes that the Chinese people will enjoy the same access to accurate information and freedom of speech that Americans enjoy," he said.
Defending its decision to designate five Chinese state media as foreign agents, a senior State Department official told reporters that the Chinese Communist Party has always had a pretty tight rein on media in general and state-run media in particular, but that has only further tightened since President Xi Jinping came to power.
Since he became the general secretary, China's Communist Party has reorganised China's state news agencies and asserted even more direct control over them, both in terms of content, editorial among others.
"Xi Jinping's got a number of quotes on this score that are there's many of them. One of them is that, 'Managing China's media messaging is crucial for the future and fate of the Chinese Communist Party and the state'. There are many others of a similar ilk that demonstrate exactly how much of a function of the state Xi Jinping considers the media to be," the official said.
In addition to the very clear state control of these media organisations, the Chinese government has also expanded its overseas media operations in recent years, including here in the United States, the official added.
Xinhua, the official said, is an institution directly reporting to China's State Council, which is the chief administrative authority of the Chinese Government. China Global Television Network is part of the China Media Group, which is a media company run by the PRC (Peoples Republic of China) Government, the official said who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The same goes for China Radio International; that's also part of the China Media Group. China Daily Distribution Corporation acts on behalf of the China Daily, which is an English-language daily newspaper owned by the Publicity Department of the CCP. And Hai Tian Development USA acts on behalf of the People's Daily, which is the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the official said.
The Senior State Department official reiterated that each one of these entities meets the definition of foreign mission under the Foreign Mission Act, which is to say they are either substantially owned or effectively controlled by a foreign government.
"And that's why we have now determined that we will be treating them as foreign missions, the official added.