Beijing-based French journalist Ursula Gauthier’s press visa expires on December 31, but the Chinese authorities won’t be extending it because of an article she wrote about the government’s actions in the troubled far-west province of Xinjiang.
Published on November 18, Gauthier’s article for the weekly l’Obs news magazine, asserted that Chinese authorities were using the global threat of terrorism as an excuse to further crack down on Xinjiang’s Uyghur population who are Muslim.
According to Reuters, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, said Gauthier’s article “openly supports terrorist activity, the killing of innocents, and has outraged the Chinese public.” Lu further stated that because the French journalist did not make a public apology, she is unable to work in the country.
But Gauthier denies any wrongdoing.
“From the beginning they wanted me to apologize for supporting terrorism, but I said ‘I have never supported terrorism, how do you want me to apologize for something I have not written?’,” Gauthier says in the below video by DW.
“I’m convinced that they are very clearly trying to intimidate foreign press in China because they don’t want anyone to say things that are different from the official version of the question,” she says.
Watch Gauthier’s interview in this report from DW:
Gauthier’s employer, l’Obs, said their journalist has been vilified in the state-run press, and even had death threats made against her after the article was published. According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), Gauthier’s address and photo were also posted on several online forums in China.
More broadly, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) say that, foreign journalists and their local fixers in China are harassed and intimidated by the communist authorities.
“The government is yet again putting pressure on journalists who criticize its policies. It is not the job of correspondents to act as mouthpieces of the People’s Republic of China,” said RWB’s Aude Rossigneux about Gauthier’s situation.
RWB says China ranked 176th out of 180 countries in their press freedom index.
As for Xinjiang, hundreds have been killed there in the past several years as a result of ethnic tensions and repression.
Watch this report from Seeker Daily about what Muslims face in China:
In its most recent world report, New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says in Xinjiang there is: “Pervasive ethnic discrimination, severe religious repression, and increasing cultural suppression justified by the government in the name of the ‘fight against separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism’.” HRW says these factors fuel rising tensions in the region.
The authorities refute any human rights abuse claims, and say that they’re fighting Islamic separatism and terrorism.
But HRW states that the Chinese authorities tightly control visits to the region by diplomats and journalists, which makes it virtually impossible to verify any alleged acts of terrorism.
Watch this ABC Australia report, posted online by Journeyman Pictures on October 2014, about the situation in Xinjiang, and on how hard it is for the media to report on it: