Saturday, July 24, 2021

BBC China correspondent moves to Taiwan after threats from authorities

The number of foreign journalists in China is shrinking as they are either pressured into leaving or expelled.

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The BBC’s Beijing correspondent John Sudworth has left China and moved to Taiwan following pressure and threats from the Chinese authorities.

Sudworth, who has won awards for his reporting on the treatment of the Uighur people in the Xinjiang region, left Beijing hurriedly with his family.

They were followed to the airport and into the check-in area by plainclothes police officers. His wife, Yvonne Murray, reports on China for the Irish public broadcaster RTÉ.

China has denounced the BBC’s coverage of Xinjiang, but the British broadcaster says it is proud of his reporting and he will remain its China correspondent.

Sudworth says he and his team faced surveillance, threats of legal action, obstruction and intimidation wherever they tried to film.

He and his team were followed and had their footage deleted on a trip to Xinjiang in late 2020

His reporting colleagues are still in Beijing, and he says he intends to continue his reporting from Taiwan.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said, “Only in recent days when we were faced with the task of renewing Sudworth’s press card did we learn that Sudworth left without saying goodbye. After he left the country, he didn’t by any means inform the relevant departments nor provide any reason why.”

In its statement, the BBC said: “John’s reporting has exposed truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know.”

The number of international media organisations reporting from China is shrinking. Last year China expelled correspondents for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

In September 2020, the last two reporters working in China for Australian media flew home after a five-day diplomatic standoff.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China says foreign journalists are “being caught up in diplomatic rows out of their control”.

It tweeted, “Abuse of Sudworth and his colleagues at the BBC forms part of a larger pattern of harassment and intimidation that obstructs the work of foreign correspondents in China and exposes their Chinese news assistants to growing pressure.”

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