The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) came under fire from Chinese officials and social media users on Friday in an escalating diplomatic dispute.
This comes the day after Britain’s media regulator revoked the UK TV licence of Chinese state media outlet CGTN, the English-language sister channel of state broadcaster CCTV, after concluding that China’s ruling Communist Party had ultimate editorial authority over the channel.
London and Beijing have been at loggerheads for months over China’s crackdown on dissent in former British colony Hong Kong, concern over the security of Huawei technology and the treatment of ethnic Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region.
China’s foreign ministry issued a statement accusing the BBC of pushing “fake news” in its Covid-19 reporting, demanding an apology and saying that the broadcaster had politicised the pandemic and “rehashed theories about covering up by China”.
The BBC, the world’s oldest and largest national broadcaster, said its reporting is fair and unbiased, Reuters reports.
Separately on Thursday, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that London had in the past year expelled three Chinese spies who were there on journalism visas.
“I highly suspect that the BBC has been closely instigated by the intelligence agencies of the US and the UK. It has become a bastion of the Western public opinion war against China,” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Communist Party-backed tabloid the Global Times, said on Twitter.
The foreign ministry’s criticism of the BBC was among the top trends on China’s Weibo social media platform on Friday.
“BBC shall not become Bad-mouthing Broadcasting Corporation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Twitter.
BBC broadcasts, like those of most major Western news outlets, are blocked in China although it has correspondents based there.
“The BBC has long been stationed in Beijing yet has always held ideological prejudice and broadcast fake news from its platform, deliberately defaming China. After so many years, it’s past time that we took action,” one Weibo user said, calling for Beijing to expel the BBC.
BBC coverage of Xinjiang came under heavy criticism after it reported on Wednesday that women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in the region were subject to rape and torture.
China’s foreign ministry said the report had no factual basis. The Global Times said in an editorial on Friday that the BBC had “seriously violated journalistic ethics”.