China on Wednesday effectively ordered American journalists at the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal to leave the country in the Communist government's most severe move against foreign media in recent memory.
The foreign ministry said in a statement the measure was in retaliation for Washington's decision to cut the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work for Chinese state-run media on American soil.
Starting from Wednesday, the journalists, whose press cards were due to expire later this year, must notify the foreign ministry within four days and hand back their credentials within 10 days, the ministry said.
"They 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 statement said.
China has already expelled three other Wall Street Journal reporters - two Americans and one Australian - over what it deemed a racist headline by the US newspaper.
But those expulsions had also been seen by some observers as a tit-for-tat move over the US decision to reclassify Chinese state-run media operating in the United States as foreign missions.
Beijing on Wednesday also ordered Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Time magazine to declare in writing their staff, finances, operations and real estate in China.
It said it would take unspecified "reciprocal measures" against American journalists "in response to the discriminatory restrictions the US has imposed on Chinese journalists with regard to visa, administrative review and reporting."
"The above-mentioned measures are entirely necessary and reciprocal countermeasures that China is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the US," it said.
"They are legitimate and justified self-defense in every sense."
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