French Journalist Expelled from China

A French journalist has said she is being expelled from China over her critical reporting on ‘anti-terror’ operations against Xinjiang’s Uighur Muslims.

Ursula Gauthier, a long-time writer for the French magazine L’Obs, told the Associated Press late Friday night that China’s Foreign Ministry demanded she issue a public apology for her reporting, and distance herself from any group that uses her case as an example of infringement of press freedoms in China.

Ursula Gauthier

Ursula Gauthier

“They confirmed that if I did not make a public apology on all the points that had ‘hurt the Chinese people’… my press card would not be renewed and I would have to leave on December 31,” Gauthier said. The reporter cannot apply for a visa unless her press card is renewed.

Gauthier’s November 18 article, “After the attacks [in Paris], Chinese solidarity is not without ulterior motives,” talked about Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang, the stronghold of the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority. While China argues violence in the province is part of global terrorism, Gauthier wrote that some cases appear to be homegrown.

Uighur separatists have been responsible for several horrific terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, including a mass-knifing incident in a train station that killed 33 people in March 2014 and a vehicular assault on a farmer’s market in May 2014.

Chinese officials said Gauthier’s report justified violence against the government. The story also triggered abusive comments from social media users in China and was condemned by the state-run Global Times and China Daily.

“If I had actually written what they accuse me of, I deserve to be put in prison, not expelled,” Gauthier said.

The attitude of Chinese officials was “a pretext to intimidate foreign correspondents in China, particularly on issues concerning minorities,” Gauthier said, adding that she would “not deviate” from her story and leave the country on December 31.

Gauthier’s case is the first time a foreign reporter has been expelled from China since 2012, when Melissa Chan, correspondent for the English-language service of Al Jazeera, was kicked out for her reports on land confiscation and so-called ‘Black Jails.’ Chan’s expulsion forced Al Jazeera to shut down its Beijing bureau.

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