Two Wall Street Journal reporters left China on Monday after being identified for a controversial headline in a comment that angered Beijing.
Last week, three reporters were ordered out of the country for a racist headline that journalists had not included in the letter. This was one of the toughest steps against foreign media in years.
However, analysts found that the decision to revoke their credentials was made in Washington one day after the tightening of US state media regulations in Washington, which raised suspicions of Beijing's retaliation.
The journal's statement, entitled "China is the really sick man of Asia," was written by a US professor who criticized the Chinese government's first response to the coronavirus outbreak.
China's State Department said it was "racially discriminatory," and since the newspaper did not apologize, the three Chinese-based reporters had their press cards revoked.
Deputy office manager Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both US citizens, and reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, had five days to leave the country, according to the journal.
The three journalists work for the news section of the Wall Street Journal, which is not linked to the editorial and opinion pages.
In a letter from 53 journal reporters and editors, the management of the newspaper was asked to apologize. The Washington Post and New York Times reported that the heading was "derogatory."
An AFP reporter saw Chin and Wen, wearing face masks, check in at Beijing's main international airport after their flight, and then go through security.
Deng, the third journalist affected, reported from Wuhan – the epicenter of the virus outbreak that killed over 2,500 people.
The journal confirmed to AFP that she was still in the quarantine city.
The newspaper's editor said the outlet was "deeply disappointed" with China's decision and none of the designated journalists had "any involvement" in the statement in question.
The term "sick man of Asia" originally referred to China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it was exploited by foreign powers in what was sometimes referred to as the "century of humiliation" for the country.
China's attempt to oust the three journalists marks a drastic escalation of pressure on the international media.
In the past five years, several foreign reporters have effectively left the country.
However, the Club of Foreign Correspondents in China said that China has not completely expelled a foreign correspondent since 1998.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)