Monday, January 24, 2022

UK-Beijing ties strained over media coverage of China

Beijing says it opposes those who make up 'fake news' to attack China and its ruling Communist Party under the banners of press freedom and freedom of speech.

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UK media reporting on China is becoming an area of increasing tension in Sino-British ties.

China summoned Britain’s ambassador in Beijing on Tuesday to lodge “stern representations” over an “inappropriate” article she wrote defending recent international media coverage on China, the Chinese foreign ministry has said.

Caroline Wilson’s article in Chinese was posted on the official WeChat account of the British embassy in Beijing last week, amid already tense relations between Britain and China over issues including Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the media.

In the article, Wilson explained why foreign media criticism of the Chinese government did not mean the journalists responsible did not like China but were in fact acting in “good faith” and playing an active role in monitoring government action, reports Reuters.

China’s foreign ministry said the Chinese government and people had never opposed foreign media, rather those who make up “fake news” to attack China and its ruling Communist Party under the banners of press freedom and freedom of speech.

“Her whole article is full of ‘lecturer’ arrogance and ideological prejudice, and is seriously inconsistent with the status of diplomats,” the statement said in remarks attributed to the head of the ministry’s Europe department.

Wilson, whose article was still accessible on WeChat on Tuesday but could not be shared on the platform, responded on Twitter.

“I stand by my article. No doubt the outgoing Chinese ambassador to the UK stands by the 170+ pieces he was free to place in mainstream British media,” she tweeted, referring to Liu Xiaoming, who was based in Britain for around 11 years before leaving the country in January.

Beijing last month banned BBC World News from television networks in mainland China after finding it had “seriously violated” rules and undermined national unity.

That came a week after Britain’s media regulator Ofcom barred Chinese state broadcaster CGTN from airing in the UK after it concluded that the Chinese Communist Party had ultimate editorial responsibility for the channel.

The BBC has run a series of reports alleging human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region, which Beijing denies.

Tensions with London also flared over an offer of a path to British citizenship for residents of the former British colony of Hong Kong following the imposition of a national security law cracking down on dissent.

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