BEIJING (AP) — China said Saturday that it will not renew press credentials for a French journalist, effectively expelling her following a harsh media campaign against her for questioning the official line equating ethnic violence in China’s western Muslim region with global terrorism.
Expecting the move, Ursula Gauthier, a longtime journalist for the French news magazine L’Obs, said late Friday night that she was prepared to leave China.
Once she departs on Dec. 31, she will become the first foreign journalist forced to leave China since 2012, when American Melissa Chan, then working for Al Jazeera in Beijing, was expelled.
“They want a public apology for things that I have not written,” Gauthier said. “They are accusing me of writing things that I have not written.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that Gauthier was no longer “suitable” to be allowed to work in China because she had supported “terrorism and cruel acts” that killed civilians and refused to apologize for her words.
“China has always protected the legal rights of foreign media and foreign correspondents to report within the country, but China does not tolerate the freedom to embolden terrorism,” Lu said in a statement.
Gauthier on Saturday called the accusations “absurd,” and said that emboldening terrorism is morally and legally wrong. “I should be legally persecuted if that’s the case,” she said.
“All this is rhetoric,” Gauthier said. “It’s only meant to deter foreign correspondents in the future in Beijing.”
In a statement Friday, the French foreign ministry said: “We regret that the visa of Madame Ursula Gauthier was not renewed. France recalls the importance of the role journalists play throughout the world.”
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said the accusation that Gauthier supports terrorism “is a particularly egregious personal and professional affront with no basis in fact.” It said it was “appalled” by the decision, and expressed concerns that Beijing was using the accreditation and visa process to threaten foreign journalists.
“The FCCC views this matter as a most serious development and a grave threat to the ability of foreign correspondents to work in China,” it said in a statement.
The fallout began with Gauthier’s Nov. 18 article, shortly after the attacks in Paris. She wrote that Beijing’s proclaimed solidarity with Paris is not without ulterior motives, as Beijing seeks international support for its assertion that the ethnic violence in its Muslim region of Xinjiang is part of global terrorism.
Gauthier wrote that some of the violent attacks in Xinjiang involving members of the minority Uighur community appeared to be homegrown, with no evidence of foreign ties — an observation that has been made by numerous foreign experts on security and on Xinjiang’s ethnic policies and practices.
Advocacy groups have argued that the violence is more likely to be a response to Beijing’s suppressive policies in Xinjiang.
Beijing blames the violence on terrorism with foreign ties. Amid a counterterrorism campaign, a Xinjiang court last year sentenced a Uighur (pronounced WEE-gur) scholar critical of China’s ethnic policies in Xinjiang to life in prison. This month, a Beijing court convicted a prominent lawyer of fanning ethnic hatred based on his comments that Beijing should rethink its Xinjiang policies.
In her article, Gauthier focused on a deadly mine attack in a remote region of Xinjiang, which she described as more likely an act by Uighurs against mine workers of the majority Han ethnic group over what the Uighurs perceived as mistreatment, injustice and exploitation.
The article quickly drew stern criticism from state media and China’s government.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized Western media for using double standards in reporting on the violence.
“Why is terrorism in other countries called terrorist actions, but it turns out to be ethnic and religious issues in China?” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing on Dec. 2.
By then, state media had launched an abusive and intimidating campaign against Gauthier, accusing her of having deep prejudice against China and having hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.
On Friday, Gauthier said that the Foreign Ministry demanded her to apologize for “hurting Chinese people’s feelings with wrong and hateful actions and words,” and to publicly state that she recognizes that there have been terrorist attacks in and outside Xinjiang.
She said she was also asked to distance herself from any support group that presents her case as infringement of press freedom in China.
Associated Press writers Louise Watt in Beijing and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.
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When in France, we do like the French do. When in China, we do like the Chinese do.
Chine: Keep their citizens dumb,and uneducated, so that they don’t know any better. That way, the government has full control of them “puppet” citizens.
Greetings Mike. I don’t believe you are right about China keeping its citizens dumb and uneducated. Numerous studies show that the Chinese are among the most proficient in math and far ahead of their English counterparts. And you have to be smart to be able to read, write and understand several thousand hanzi characters. No, they are not dumb and uneducated, but they are kept under strict government control by a massive army and police force.
Smart in science, and dumb in how to ask for freedom?
Perhaps they are smart by not asking for freedom because they know they may be jailed or worse for asking. Better to be red than dead.
China expelling Google was the first sign of total control from the government’s doctrine.
All them communist countries around the world are all in it together.
communist? No hon. It is far from a communist state. But yes, dictators and authoritarian governments hate even-handed reporting. But you might argue the same for many of the sovereignty advocates out here who threaten anyone who dares to expose their lies to the public.
Good point allie:)
allie can butter up China, but she still knows better than to move over there.
In a communist country, best let the government ask the questions.
Not too far fetched once our country is taken over by the elite liberals. The liberal media has already begun their onslaught to toe the party line by attacking the opposition.
Oh my goodness. Go back to bed buddy and enjoy a day off.
I don’t even think that the Chinese have any idea what you are talking about.
She’s lucky she was expelled and not incarcerated or worse.
I’ve been expelling since high school.
As the saying goes, whoever controls the media also controls the minds of the people.
I’m so glad that the SA is not bias.
America is headed down the same path.
Hawaii is worst than a third world country. At least the third world countries are able to use a non recyclable, plastic bag for shopping.
No freedom of the press ,China is a dictatorship.