Source: TheJohnSudworth’s Twitter account.

A senior BBC correspondent said Wednesday he had left China, after facing legal threats and pressure from authorities over his reporting on Xinjiang rights abuses and the coronavirus pandemic.

John Sudworth told BBC Radio 4 in an interview that he had relocated to Taiwan after nine years in Beijing as it was “too risky to carry on”.

Threats from Chinese authorities had “intensified” in recent months, he added.

At least 18 foreign correspondents were expelled by China last year, during a tit-for-tat row with the US that decimated the international press presence in the country.

Press freedom groups say the space for foreign reporters to operate in China is increasingly tightly-controlled, with journalists followed on the streets, suffering harassment online and refused visas.

“The BBC has faced a full-on propaganda attack not just aimed at the organisation itself but at me personally across multiple Communist Party-controlled platforms,” said Sudworth, who will continue to work as China correspondent from Taiwan.

“We face threats of legal action, as well as massive surveillance now, obstruction and intimidation, whenever and wherever we try to film,” he added, reporting that he had even been “followed by plainclothes police” during his departure from China.

In recent weeks, Chinese state media and officials have repeatedly attacked Sudworth for his reporting on alleged forced labour practices targeting Uyghur Muslim minorities in Xinjiang’s cotton industry in particular.

The BBC also confirmed Sudworth’s relocation after state media tabloid Global Times reported Wednesday he was “hiding” in Taiwan.

“John’s work has exposed truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know,” the broadcaster said in a statement on Twitter.

Xinjiang authorities said mid-March that Sudworth was the target of a civil lawsuit for producing “fake news” about the region.

“Everyone knows that the BBC broadcasts a large number of fake news with strong ideological bias,” Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters in Beijing.

But she denied the government had been behind the move to sue him and instead admonished Sudworth for leaving in a hurry and not clearing his name.

“Why did he run away? What does this show?” she said.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, an unofficial advocacy organisation for foreign media operating in China, said Sudworth “forms one of an ever-larger number of journalists driven out of China by unacceptable harassment.”

It added that he had been kept on “a series of short visas, variously lasting one, three and six months,” putting pressure on his ability to raise his young family.

The club noted that attacks on Sudworth and the BBC escalated after the British broadcasting regulator revoked the license of Chinese state TV channel CGTN in February.


Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

China simulates Taiwan strikes in second day of ‘Joint Sword’ drills

China’s military conducted joint military drills dubbed “Joint Sword” as they simulated attacks on Taiwan. The exercise ran over a three-day period, aimed at showcasing Beijing’s military prowess. The drills included the deployment of fighter jets, warships, and ground forces around Taiwan’s four sides. Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, criticized the exercises, which occurred after she met with the US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Chinese netizens express outrage as murder case involving official’s son finally goes to court one year after the crime

The murder of a male journalist by a colleague in Guiyang City, China, has caused outrage among Chinese social media users. The suspect, Zeng Yang, who is allegedly the son of a retired police officer, was only brought to trial more than a year after the incident, during which time he has denied his guilt. The victim’s mother, Ao Linchan, took to social media to expose the crime online, having allegedly been rejected multiple times by local authorities when petitioning the matter to various departments. The victim, Ni Qingqing, was locked in an office and brutally killed by Zeng Yang with a knife and chainsaw after an argument about work-related issues. Zeng Yang calmly filmed a video afterward and bragged about the killing on his social media account. In court, Zeng Yang pleaded not guilty, committed contempt of court behaviors, and even threatened the victim’s family. Weibo users expressed shock that the incident had been hidden from the outside world for over a year and questioned whether justice would be served in a country where people with money and power can kill someone without being punished. The mother of the victim has asserted that she will not accept civil compensation and only requests that Zeng Yang be sentenced to death and executed immediately.

Canada watchdog probes Nike over Uyghur forced labor claims

Nike and Dynasty Gold are under investigation in Canada for allegedly using forced labor from China’s Uyghur minority, following complaints from civil society organizations.