Tiananmen Gate in Beijing. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry revoked on Wednesday the press credentials of three Beijing-based Wall Street Journal journalists and ordered them to leave the country within five days, the news outlet confirmed.

Why it matters: The action taken over the Journal op-ed headline "China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia" comes hours after the State Department designated the Chinese state media outlets Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily and Hai Tian Development USA as "foreign missions," meaning they are treated as arms of the government, as Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian first reported.

  • There are strict reporting restrictions on foreign news outlets in China. But the expulsion of foreign journalists — and "multiple reporters with the same international news organization at the same time" — is rare, as WSJ notes.

What they're saying: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement condemning China’s expulsion of the foreign correspondents:

"Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions. 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."

Details: The journalists ordered to leave the country are deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both Americans, and reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, according to WSJ.

  • Geng Shuang, spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry, told a news briefing authorities had repeatedly asked for a public apology but the news outlet had not done so, according to the state-run Global Times.

Of note: News and editorial departments are run separately and the journalists would have had nothing to do with the opinion pieces like the one Chinese authorities object to, written by Walter Russell Mead, a James Clarke Chace professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College and the Journal's Global View columnist.

  • In August, another WSJ reporter, Chun Han Wong, who reported on an investigation by Australian authorities into Chinese President Xi Jinping's cousin, had to leave mainland China after a request to renew his press credentials was denied.

Go deeper: Pompeo says new China media restrictions "long overdue"

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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