Hong Kong (CNN Business)The Chinese government announced Wednesday that it would revoke the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters, the largest such expulsion of overseas media from the country in recent years.

Speaking at a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the expulsion was due to an opinion piece published by the US news organization on February 3, entitled “China is the real sick man of Asia.”

“The editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community,” Geng said.

“Regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but parrying and dodging its responsibility. It has neither issued an official apology nor informed us of what it plans to do with the persons involved. … As such, it is decided that from today, the press cards of three WSJ journalists will be revoked.”

Although the Chinese government has strict reporting restrictions on foreign media in its country, it is highly unusual for an international journalist to be expelled from the country.

The move comes less than one day after United States officials announced Tuesday they would be treating five major Chinese state-run media companies as effective extensions of the Chinese government.

A senior State Department official said Tuesday that Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily and People’s Daily will be designated as “foreign missions,” effective immediately.

The change will mean that the media companies will now need US government approval to buy or lease office space in the US and will have to register personnel changes with the US State Department.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry described the decision as “unreasonable and unacceptable” and maintained that China reserves the right to “respond further on this matter.”

The expulsion of the three journalists follows a weeks-long campaign in Chinese state media attacking the Wall Street Journal over its decision to publish the opinion piece.

In a Twitter post Wednesday, the state-run tabloid Global Times claimed the headline was “racist” and published an opinion piece calling on the Wall Street Journal to “apologize.”

“A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has also demanded a public apology from the paper. But the Wall Street Journal still has not apologized, nor has it taken any actions to correct the mistake. It continues to adhere to its arrogance and prejudice,” the opinion piece said.

— This is a developing story.

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