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China expelled French journalist for double standards on terrorism, netizens showed support

December 28, 2015 by Blog Editor

Ursula Gauthier, a Beijing-based correspondent for the French newsmagazine L’Obs is facing expulsion from China due to her critical comments over the country’s policies towards the Muslim Uyghur minority living in Xinjiang region, state-backed media Global Times reported on December 26th.


On November 18th this year, Gauthier published an article that questioned Chinese government’s motives in linking violence in Xinjiang region with the terrorist attacks happened in Paris, saying these two events share “nothing in common”. She also criticized China’s ethnic policies and believed that the violent acts of the Uyghurs are a result of the government’s wrongful treatments towards the ethnic minority living in the region.

Located in northwestern China, Xinjiang is home to many ethnic minority groups including a large population of the Turkish Uyghur. The region has been suffering from ongoing separatist conflicts due to tensions between Uyghurs and Han Chinese that reside in the area.

In a statement issued by Chinese Foreign Ministry, Spokesman Lu Kang said that Gauthier’s reports “overly advocates for acts of terrorism and brutal killing of innocent civilian, which caused widespread outranges among the Chinese public”. He further added, “Given that Gauthier has failed to make apology to the Chinese public over her wrongful act that advocates terrorism, she is no longer suitable to continue working in China”.

Public Controversy

Gauthier is the second foreign correspondent that is forced to leave China since Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan was denied visa by Chinese authority in 2012. After five years of work in China, Chan was not allowed to continue her work in the country after she reported a series of stories on China’s ‘black jails’ and rural land confiscation. Many Chinese netizens showed sympathy to Chan and expressed scorns to CCTV’s news presenter Yang Rui after he called Chan a “foreign bitch” over the case of her expulsion.

Different from Chan’s case, however, Gauthier received mostly resentful reactions from the Chinese public. On Chinese social media, some netizens pointed that Gauthier has poor knowledge about China and her reports contain too much prejudice and misunderstanding about what happens inside China.

Weibo user @无钱冇事2012 said: “’double standard’ is a common disease among western journalists. They tried to force China to retrospect – but the terrorist attacks happened in Paris are largely associated with France’s discriminative policies against Islamic ethnic groups and Muslim refugees”.

Weibo user @王者若欢 commented, “To people in Xinjiang who suffered from terrorist violence, this kind of person should be considered a criminal. Get out of China!”

Moreover, an online survey ran by Global Times, a Chinese pro-state daily tabloid, showed that 94.4% of over 214 thousand voters supported the state’s decision on Gauthier’s expulsion. One of Global Times news reports on Gauthier’s case also ironically cited a few angry responses from Chinese netizens posted on social media flatform Facebook, a website that has been blocked by China’s Great Firewall since 2009, attempting to reinstate the popular legitimacy for the state’s act of expelling Ursula Gauthier.  

Terrorism in China or double standards of the West?

In a video posted on Guardian, Gauthier insisted that she “never supported terrorism” and could not apologize for something she has never written. She also said that the accusation again her is “all rhetoric” because if she really supported terrorism, she would have been indicted instead of only being expelled.

This is not the first time that the Chinese state disagrees with western media over the definition of terrorism and how it exists in China. In March 2014, the Chinese government and public expressed discontent after the mass stabbing happened at Kunming train station as a several international media outlets declined to call the attack an act of terrorism. Since after, Western governments and media houses are frequently accused for applying double standards when reporting on ethnic violent attacks happened within the Chinese territory.

Except cultural and ideological divergences between China and the West over the issue of terrorism, low transparency of public information is a critical reason for the growing mistrust between western media and the Chinese public. With restricted access to information associated with these violent attacks, the original causes and motives of such attacks are hard to be understood. This to a large extent triggered questions from western reporters over the unrevealed facts, and also prevents China to become an integral part of the global strategy against terrorism.

Given that Chinese prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was detained and sentenced for his online comments on China’s ethnic policies in Xinjiang earlier this month, Radio France Internationale added in a commentary piece: “Beijing is trying to send a message to the world: Chinese government does not allow any domestic or international criticism over its policy towards ethnic minorities”.

Images: CNN

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