China said Saturday that it would not renew a French journalist’s press credentials, the Associated Press reports. Ursula Gauthier, a reporter for the news magazine L’Obs, will become the first foreign journalist to be forced to leave China since 2012.
Gauthier told the AP on Friday that she expected the move, and was prepared to leave. “They want a public apology for things that I have not written,” she said. “They are accusing me of writing things that I have not written.”
The Chinese government has attempted to draw connections between the increasingly bloody ethnic conflict in its Xinjiang region, framing attacks by separatist Muslim Uighurs as part of global terrorism. On November 18th, after the attacks in Paris, Gauthier wrote that Beijing’s expressions of solidarity with the French were at least partly disingenuous. From the AP:
Gauthier wrote that 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 that 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 counterterrorism campaign, a Xinjiang court last year sentenced a Uighur (pronounced WEE-gur) 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.
In her article, Gauthier focused on a deadly mine attack in a remote region of Xinjiang, which she described as more likely an act by Uighurs against mine workers of the majority Han ethnic group over what the Uighurs perceived as mistreatment, injustice and exploitation.
“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,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement. Gauthier was no longer “suitable” to work in China because she supported “terrorism and cruel acts.” She will be forced to leave at the end of the year.