(Beijing) A BBC journalist said on Wednesday that he left China after “threats” linked to his coverage of the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, which Beijing considered “biased.”
John Sudworth, who regularly produced stories defying the authorities, moved to Taiwan with his wife, Yvonne Murray, China correspondent for Irish public broadcaster RTE.
“The pressure and threats from the Chinese authorities as a result of my information have been fairly constant.” But he told BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday.
“In the end, with my family here in Beijing, as well as with the BBC, we decided it was too risky to continue working,” he added.
This journalist was the main target of the Chinese state media for publishing reports on the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang (northwest China).
In particular, the state press accused John Sudworth of “biased” and “distorted facts” by reiterating allegations of “rape” or “forced labor” in this area.
For its part, the BBC said in a statement, “John’s work revealed facts that the Chinese authorities do not want the world to know.”
It was officially announced, in mid-March, that the journalist had been subjected to a legal complaint because of “false news.” This measure could have prevented him from leaving the territory.
Hua Chunying, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Affairs, responded Wednesday during a regular press conference: “If John Sodworth thought his reports were fair and objective, he should have had the courage to face this legal action.”
Everyone knows that the BBC is broadcasting a lot of fake news about China with a strong ideological bias. ”
The Foreign Correspondents Club in China (FCCC), which represents journalists living in this country, said in a statement “concerned” and “sad” for John Sudworth’s departure.
“The assault on Mr. Sudworth and his colleagues at the BBC is part of a larger context of harassment and intimidation that hinders foreign correspondents from working in China.”
For its part, the RTE indicated that his wife, Yvonne Murray, will continue to cover China from Taiwan.
“We left in a disaster when pressure and threats from the Chinese government, which lasted for a while, became very important,” she explained on her employer’s antenna.
She expressed regret, “Two of our children were born in China, and they all speak Chinese fluently, and feel at home there, and it is especially difficult for them to face the fact that they may not be able to return there.”
To leave or come back, it’s up to her. The Chinese embassy in Ireland replied on Twitter: “Nobody forced her to leave.”
Covering some sensitive topics is complicated for foreign journalists: many have been followed up, arrested, or issued in retaliation with short-term entry visas.
China expelled at least 18 foreign journalists working for US dailies in 2020. Retaliatory action against Washington has forced dozens of Chinese reporters to leave the United States.