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China expels French reporter who questioned official line on terrorism

Published 27/12/2015

French journalist Ursula Gauthier has been effectively expelled from China (AP)
French journalist Ursula Gauthier has been effectively expelled from China (AP)

A French journalist is preparing to leave China after the Communist government said she was no longer "suitable"' to be allowed to work there.

China will not renew press credentials for Ursula Gauthier , effectively expelling her following a harsh media campaign against her for questioning the official line equating ethnic violence in the western Muslim region with global terrorism.

She will depart on New Year's Eve, the first foreign reporter 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," said Ms Gauthier, who works for the French news magazine L'Obs sai.

"They are accusing me of writing things that I have not written."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Ms 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 apologise 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," he said.

Ms Gauthier called the accusations "absurd," and said that emboldening terrorism is morally and legally wrong. She said she should be prosecuted if that were the case.

"All this is rhetoric," she said. "It's only meant to deter foreign correspondents in the future in Beijing."

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 Ms 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 trouble began with an article on November 18, 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.

Ms Gauthier said 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 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 counter-terrorism campaign, a Xinjiang court last year sentenced a Uighur 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.

The article quickly drew stern criticism from state media and China's government.

The foreign ministry criticised Western media for using double standards in reporting on the violence.

By then, state media had launched an abusive and intimidating campaign against Ms Gauthier, accusing her of having deep prejudice against China and having hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

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