Chinese officials have declined to reinstate Ursula Gauthier’s press credentials, making it the first time the country kicked out a foreign reporter since 2012. In recent years, China has reportedly cracked down on dissent in the media, especially regarding the sensitive issues Gauthier touched on.
Shortly after the November terrorist attack in Paris that left over 130 dead, the Chinese government quickly condemned the attacks. President Xi Jinping even said China would join France in combating terrorism.
But according to Ursula Gauthier, the Chinese government had ulterior motives for supporting France and was conflating the what happened in France with its own domestic ethnic violence.
She wrote in the French magazine L’OBS, “in other words, if China declares its solidarity with nations threatened by Islamic State, in return it expects the support of the international community in its own entanglements with its most restless minority.”
French journalist Ursula Gauthier reacts to China expulsion order – video https://t.co/sKLxvCtW80
— Media Guardian (@mediaguardian) December 26, 2015
Gauthier has been L’OBS’s Beijing correspondent since 2009, but that appears to be coming to a end. According to the AP, China announced Saturday that it would not renew her credentials, which will effectively force her to leave the country.
Spokesperson Lu Kang released a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry explaining that the French reporter’s article, “overtly advocates for acts of terrorism and killings of innocent civilians, and caused public outrage among the Chinese people.”
“China has always protected the legal rights of foreign media and foreign correspondents to report within the country, but China does not tolerate the freedom to embolden terrorism.”
Ursula Gauthier’s article’s controversy centered around the Uyghurs, a Muslim, ethnic group that live in the northwestern semi-autonomous province of Xinjiang. On September 18, unnamed men attacked a coal mine in Xinjiang, killing 50 people and injuring 50 more using knives, according to Radio Free Asia.
On November 12, Chinese officials announced they had apprehended all the attackers. The next day the Paris terrorist bombing happened, and the day after that China said they stand in solidarity with France.
Ursula Gauthier accused the government of drawing parallels between the Xinjiang attack and the terrorism in Paris. Although the government never released the ethnicity of the attackers, the French reporter said they were Uyghurs “pushed to the limit, probably in revenge for an abuse, an injustice or an expropriation.”
According to CNN, the official account from Chinese authorities stated that the knife assaults were planned by a “extreme organization outside the border,” who had been watching and listening to extremist religious materials.
Chinese security forces reportedly carried out a 56-day operation to find those responsible.
Ursula Gauthier acknowledged that the attack was bloody, but “the Baicheng attack had nothing in common with the 13th November attacks,” she wrote according to an English translation of her original article.
“In fact it was an explosion of local rage such as have blown up more and more often in this distant province whose inhabitants, turcophone and Muslim Uyghurs, face pitiless repression.”
Security has gradually heightened in the Xinjiang region due to rising ethnic-based violence. Human rights groups routinely accuse Beijing of heavy-handed tactics and repression of religion and speech for the minority group.
Chinese authorities demanded an apology after the article’s publication, but Ursula Gauthier refused.
Gauthier has a number of supporters after her expulsion was announced, including Melissa Chan, who was kicked out of China in 2012 while she was working as a foreign correspondent for Al Jazeera. Chan tweeted, “Gauthier was told she could stay in China if she publicly apologized for… yep, you guess it: hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.”
[Photo by China Photos/Getty Images]