China: BBC correspondent leaves China after pressure and threats

The British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) China correspondent, John Sudworth, has been forced to relocate to Taiwan over concerns for his safety. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the Chinese government to stop harassing foreign correspondents in China.

BBC China correspondent John Sudworth (c). Credit: screenshot/ BBC News

Sudworth “moved to Taiwan after it became increasingly difficult to remain in China,” the BBC said. He will continue to report on China from Taiwan and collaborate with colleagues who remain in Beijing.

The BBC has come under fire from Chinese authorities for reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic and the internment camps in Xinjiang, where at least one million Uyghur and other Muslim minorities are understood to be subject to torture, rape, and political indoctrination.

John and his family were reportedly followed to the airport and into the check-in area by plainclothes police officers while departing for Taiwan on March 23. His wife, Yvonne Murray, reports on China for the Irish public broadcaster, Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ), and has also been forced to relocate.

In a statement released on March 31, the BBC said it is proud of Sudworth’s work in China. "John's reporting has exposed truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know."

The BBC has been caught up in rising tensions between the United Kingdom and China. In February, the U.K.'s government revoked the broadcasting licence of state-owned China Global Television Network, and Beijing retaliated by banning the BBC in China.

Chinese government officials and state media had targeted Sudworth for months with “personal attacks and disinformation,” according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC).

“Abuse of Sudworth and his colleagues at the BBC form part of a larger pattern of harassment and intimidation that obstructs the work of foreign correspondents in China and exposes their Chinese news assistants to growing pressure,” the FCCC said in a statement on March 31.

The FCCC called for “an end to dangerous, personal attacks on individual reporters and foreign media outlets.”

According to the FCCC’s annual report, at least 18 foreign correspondents were expelled from China in 2020, highlighting “a rapid decline in media freedom.”

The IFJ said: “China has ramped up its efforts to pressure and restrict foreign journalists, and resorted to unfair and baseless accusations against media outlets with an attempt to crush critical reporting. The IFJ condemned the assault on press freedom and urged the Chinese government to stop harassing and using coercive tactics against foreign correspondents.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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