BBC’s China Reporter Moves to Taipei After China Criticism

British Broadcasting Corp.’s China correspondent John Sudworth has left Beijing after intense criticism from the Chinese government and citizens of the outlet’s recent coverage.

“John’s work has exposed truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know,” according to a statement on Twitter by the BBC News Press Team. “The BBC is proud of John’s award-winning reporting during his time in Beijing and he remains our China correspondent.”

China has a history of making it difficult for journalists to work in the country, and the situation has worsened in the past few years. Beijing last year expelled a slew of foreign reporters, with the government saying most of those were in response to curbs the U.S. placed on Chinese reporters. In February, BBC World News was taken off the air in China. That followed the U.K.’s removal of Chinese state-backed broadcaster CGTN’s license.

Then earlier this month the news department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the BBC’s Beijing bureau that its recent China reports seriously misled readers, according to a ministry statement. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press briefing in Beijing Wednesday that China had never threatened a BBC reporter but added that many reports from the broadcaster “have not been objective.”

Sudden Departure

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said it was “concerned and saddened” that Sudworth had left at short notice “amid concerns for his safety and that of his family.”

“Sudworth left after months of personal attacks and disinformation targeting him and his BBC colleagues, disseminated by both Chinese state media and Chinese government officials,” the statement said. “Abuse of Sudworth and his colleagues at the BBC form part of a larger pattern of harassment and intimidation that obstructs the work of foreign correspondents in China and exposes their Chinese news assistants to growing pressure.”

The Communist Party-backed Global Times characterized Sudworth’s reporting as biased. “From stigmatizing China as being the origin of the novel coronavirus to claiming Xinjiang’s cotton was ‘tainted,’ Sudworth has participated in many of BBC’s notorious reports attacking China in recent years,” it said.

“However, no matter where he flees to and in what capacity he reports on China, as long as he continues to adhere to ideological bias and continues to churn out false news to attack and smear China, he will not be able to escape righteous condemnation,” the publication wrote citing unnamed observers.

Arrests

Cheng Lei, a Chinese-born Australian national who worked for state broadcaster CGTN, is being detained on national security charges, and two journalists working for Australian media outlets fled the country in September last year after being questioned by security agents.

China sentenced former lawyer Zhang Zhan to four years in prison in December over her posts about the coronavirus response in Wuhan, according to media reports.

Haze Fan, a member of Bloomberg News’s Beijing bureau, was detained by the Beijing National Security Bureau also in December on suspicion of engaging in criminal activities that jeopardized national security. The Foreign Ministry said in February that the case remained under investigation.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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