British journalists forced to leave China

Senior BBC journalist John Sudworth and his wife Yvonne Murray, a journalist for Ireland’s RTÉ news, have left China after mounting safety concerns.

Ms Murray said her family left China due to the ‘pressure and threats from the Chinese government’ in relation to Mr Sudworth’s reports on the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and the origins of the COVID-19 virus. Mr Sudworth has faced disinformation spread by Chinese authorities, including the sharing of footage taken from police cameras, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) has said.

The BBC released a statement saying Sudworth’s award-winning work ‘exposed truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know.’ Mr Sudworth will remain the BBC’s China correspondent and will report from Taiwan, having left China on 23 March following nine years reporting from Beijing. Joanne Ou, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s foreign ministry has said the region will ‘welcome all reporters from media outlets to come to Taiwan and enjoy freedom of the press and speech,’ although she clarified she could not speak on the individual case of Sudworth and his family.

The departure of the journalists is another loss for Beijing’s declining foreign press corps. Last year an estimated 18 journalists left China, one journalist was detained and two returned to their native Australia after a diplomatic standoff. The FCC said ‘The departure of Sudworth and Murray – on top of the expulsions of at least 18 correspondents last year – is a loss for the journalism community in China and more broadly, for anyone committed to understanding the country.’

According to an annual survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), China was the leading jailer of journalists in 2020 for a second year in a row.

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Aislinn Wright

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October 2021
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