China Accuses U.K. of ‘Political Oppression’ After CGTN Pulled

China said it “firmly opposes” a decision by the U.K.’s media regulator to revoke a state-run television channel’s license to broadcast, accusing the British government of “blatant double standards and political oppression” amid rising tensions between the two countries.

“We urge the U.K. to immediately stop political maneuvers and correct its mistakes,” China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing on Friday. Ofcom “oppresses the coverage of CGTN in the U.K., politicizes technical matters and severely damages the Chinese media’s reputation,” he said, referring to the China Global Television Network.

“China reserves the right to make necessary reaction to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese media,” Wang said.

The decision by watchdog Ofcom to pull CGTN off the air builds on a growing list of spats between the two nations, including a newly announced path to U.K. citizenship for Hong Kong residents in the wake of controversial national security legislation imposed on the city by China.

Although the U.K. had been seeking to enhance trade ties with China after leaving the European Union, it has criticized Beijing for its treatment of minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and will bar Huawei Technologies Co. from its 5G networks by 2027.

In recent weeks, Chinese officials and state media has gone to new lengths to criticize foreign media reporting on China. The official People’s Daily dedicated an entire page in its Friday spread debunking what it called lies and smears against China related to Xinjiang.

China’s Foreign Ministry publicly aired stern representations with the British Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday over a documentary on the coronavirus, calling it “typical fake news containing ideological bias” and demanded a public apology. The BBC has said it stands by the story and rejected the “unfounded accusations.”

Chinese internet users have also stepped up their attacks on the BBC, with one video mocking its reporting getting over 10 million views on social media platform Weibo.

‘Crucial Information’

Ofcom found that CGTN’s license holder did not have editorial control over broadcasts in the U.K., according to an investigation published on Thursday. CGTN had asked for its license to be transferred to another entity, but “crucial information” was missing from the application and the new owner would be disqualified from holding a license as it would be controlled by a body ultimately directed by China’s Communist Party, Ofcom said.

Ofcom also said it was close to reaching a decision on separate sanctions proceedings against CGTN for failing to preserve impartiality in its coverage of protests in Hong Kong and for breaching fairness and privacy rules. British corporate investigator Peter Humphrey and two others had previously submitted complaints about CGTN to Ofcom, alleging the channel had aired their forced confessions.

In 2020, Ofcom found that CGTN’s actions toward Humphrey breached fairness and privacy rules, and was considering sanctions against the channel.

In a statement, CGTN had said it was disappointed and expressed “strong opposition” to Ofcom’s findings while defending its record as a “professional” media organization. The broadcaster said it complied with all local laws, adding that it would “continue to promote understanding, communication, trust and cooperation.”

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