In what is seen as a tit-for-tat move, China expelled US journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. According to Chinese authorities, the step was taken as a retaliation to Washington's decision to slash the number of Chinese journalists working for its state media in the US.
The crackdown comes in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, with US President Donald Trump calling it the "Chinese virus" and Chinese officials furthering virus conspiracy theories, involving the US military.
Beijing cracks down on US journalists
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has directed journalists of the three newspapers, whose press cards were due to expire later this year, to notify the the ministry within four days. They've been asked to hand over their credentials within 10 days starting Wednesday.
"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 ministry's statement read, AFP reported.
Also, the Voice of America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine have been told to declare in writing their staff, finances, operations and real estate in China, similar to the rules imposed by the US on Chinese state media.
Giving reasons for the crackdown, the ministry said the steps taken "are entirely necessary and reciprocal". China "is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the US". "They are legitimate and justified self-defense in every sense", it added.
"I regret China's decision today to further foreclose the world's ability to conduct the free press operations that, frankly, would be really good for the Chinese people in these incredibly challenging global times, where more information, more transparency are what will save lives," US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
"This is unfortunate", he added.
US-China feud over coronavirus pandemic
Trump is said to have irked Beijing by calling the novel coronavirus a "Chinese virus".
The name-calling came after China's foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing, Lijian Zhou, blamed the US military for bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the disease is said to have originated from a local sea-food and wet market.
On Tuesday, while talking to reporters, the US president defended his coronavirus name-calling by denouncing the Chinese conspiracy theory that the US military was behind the virus outbreak.