For the first time in half a decade, a foreign journalist is being effectively expelled from China, as punishment for her coverage of the government’s handling of ethnic violence in the country’s western Muslim region.
Ursula Gauthier, a veteran reporter for the French news magazine L’Obs based in Beijing, will not receive renewed press credentials and must leave the country by January, according to the Associated Press.
The article in question, titled “After the attacks (on Paris), Chinese solidarity is not without ulterior motives,” examined complaints of discrimination coming from a minority Muslim population in the region of Xinjiang. The piece argued that the government’s anti-terrorism actions have actually incited violence in the unstable area. The Chinese government claims that violence in the region is perpetrated by foreign terrorists, while local activists say it’s suppressive policies on the part of the government that’s to blame.
The government demanded a formal apology for the story, arguing that it incited widespread backlash from Chinese citizens (The article itself is not available in a Chinese language version and is censored in mainland China, notes Agence France-Presse).
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the country “does not tolerate the freedom to embolden terrorism.”
Lu Kang accuses me of "emboldening terrorists". How absurd ! https://t.co/kNyOX1F7NF— Ursula Gauthier (@ugauthier) December 26, 2015
Gauthier categorized the charges as an attempt to deflect criticism by the state.
“They want a public apology for things that I have not written. They are accusing me of writing things that I have not written ... All this is rhetoric. It’s only meant to deter foreign correspondents in the future in Beijing.”
Gauthier is the first journalist to be kicked out of China since 2012, when Al Jazeera reporter Melissa Chan was expelled after tense relations with the government over the sensitive topics she was covering.