• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
'Dark days in China': ejected French journalist
Ursula Gauthier, centre, at Beijing airport, preparing to leave China. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

'Dark days in China': ejected French journalist

AFP · 1 Jan 2016, 15:53

Published: 01 Jan 2016 15:53 GMT+01:00

Beijing accused Ursula Gauthier, the China correspondent for France's L'Obs news magazine, of supporting terrorism after she wrote an article questioning official comparisons between global Islamist violence and unrest in the homeland of the mainly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority.

It then refused to renew her credentials, obliging her to leave on December 31 when her visa expired.

Speaking from her Beijing home before departing, Gauthier said the future looked bleak for journalists in China.

"What happened with this small article about Xinjiang could happen with anything else," she said.

"This could be really dangerous in the future."

France and Europe should be "concerned about what is going on here, not because it is a journalist, not only because of the freedom of press, but also because it is about China and what China is doing to its minorities, and even its majority, the problem is the same," she added.

After landing in France, Gauthier vowed to continue writing about China and condemned Beijing over her effective expulsion.

"This has been a month and a half of madness," she told AFP at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

"We must not expel a journalist who was just doing her job, who just wrote an article, who knows the situation," she said.

In her story for L'Obs, Gauthier questioned China's motives in expressing sympathy for the victims of the November 13 Paris attacks, writing that they were calculated to tie Beijing's harsh policies in Xinjiang into the fight against global terrorism.

The veteran reporter, who has spent six years in China, suggested that violence by Uighurs against civilians in the region -- where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years -- was in part driven by resentment of government policies.

"I didn't write that I supported terrorism, I never supported terrorism in my article," she told AFP.

"I was simply explaining that the Uighurs' anger came from somewhere, just like we can explain the origin of the anger of young Arabs who become radicalised, there are roots to it," she added.

- Death threats -

The French foreign ministry on Thursday urged Chinese authorities "to re-examine Ms Gauthier's request so she can return to carry out her mission in China".

"France reiterates its commitment to the free exercise of journalism everywhere in the world," it said in a statement.

Gauthier said she views her treatment as an attempt "to intimidate foreign correspondents in China, particularly on issues concerning minorities, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang".

Chinese media and officials strongly criticised her article, with the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times saying it "severely distorted the reality in Xinjiang" and represented a "double standard" on terrorism.

The journalist said her home address was posted online alongside death threats from angry readers.

China's foreign ministry said she "flagrantly championed acts of terrorism... triggering the Chinese people's outrage".

Story continues below…

Asked whether Gauthier would ever be allowed to return to China, ministry spokesman Lu Kang left the issue open on Thursday, telling a regular briefing: "It entirely depends on her."

Foreign correspondents' visas in China are tied to their official credentials, so that the ministry's refusal to renew her press card meant her right to remain in the country would expire on December 31.

Gauthier is the first foreign correspondent forced to leave China since the 2012 expulsion of Melissa Chan, correspondent for broadcaster Al Jazeera's English-language service.

The decision to effectively expel Gauthier has been widely criticised by press freedom groups such as Reporters Without Borders.

L'Obs director Matthieu Croissandeau told AFP: "This is an unacceptable attack on freedom of information and creates a real obstacle for journalism in China."

The French government, which earlier called the denial of the visa "regrettable", defended its actions, saying it had reached out to Beijing several times to get it to reconsider its stance.

Today's headlines
New app aims to rid Paris pavements of dog poo
Photo: ByeBye Crottoir

No need to watch your step anymore, says this French engineer behind a new app called "Bye Bye Pavement Dog Poo"

Calls in France for English to be ditched as EU language
Photo: AFP

Some in France suggest it's time to end the dominance of English as the EU's working language, now that the UK has voted to leave the union.

Seven tips for selling your house in France
Photo: AFP

After the Brexit referendum there is already talk of British expats in France considering selling up. Here are seven tips put together by an expert.

British businesses in France told to keep calm and carry on
Brits celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday at the British embassy in Paris. Photo: UK in France/Flickr

Brits running their own businesses have been told that despite the Brexit vote, it should be "business as usual".

Paris thieves pilfer luxury watches worth €3 million
Photo: AFP

Another multi-million robbery in the chic heart of Paris.

Price of Paris monthly transport pass to rise
Photo: AFP

Commuting in Paris is set to get pricier.

Opinion - Brexit
Why a Brexit would be a 'windfall' for France
Photo: AFP

A Brexit wouldn't mean the "apocalypse" the doomsdayers are predicting, it would actually be a "tremendous opportunity" for France.

Post Brexit: Paris and London vow to cooperate not compete
Sadiq Khan and Anne Hidalgo vow to work together. Photo: AFP

The mayors of Paris and London have vowed to work together in order to shape the 21st century.

Voters give green light to new airport in western France
Photo: AFP

Will this finally mark the end of years of wrangling and protests?

'We can handle Brexit' insist Hollande and Merkel
Photo: AFP

France and Germany say they are on the same page when it comes to handling the fallout of last week's shock Brexit vote.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
International
French police appear unprepared for hooligan threat at Euro 2016
Sport
An A to Z guide of what to expect in France for Euro 2016
2,726
jobs available