China to expel French journalist, reporter tells AFP

BEIJING (AFP) – China has refused to renew the press credentials of a French journalist, effectively expelling her, unless she recants one of her stories, the reporter told AFP Friday (Dec 25), the first such case since 2012.

Ursula Gauthier, a correspondent for French news magazine L’Obs based in Beijing, must issue a public apology for a piece she wrote last month or China’s foreign ministry will not renew her press credentials, set to expire on Dec 31, officials told Gauthier on Christmas Day.

“They confirmed that if I did not make a public apology on all the points that had ‘hurt the Chinese people’ ... my press card would not be renewed and I would have to leave on December 31,” she told AFP.

Gauthier is the first foreign correspondent in China to be forcibly expelled since 2012, when Melissa Chan, correspondent for the English-language service of Al Jazeera, was sent packing.

While domestic media is subject to strict control and many topics are taboo, foreign media is free to publish on any topic.

However, foreign journalists frequently complain of harassment by the authorities while conducting routine reporting.

Her article in L’Obs triggered condemnation from Beijing and a virulent campaign in the state-run Global Times and

China Daily, as well as thousands of often violent and abusive comments from Chinese Internet users. Her photo was published online.

Entitled “After the attacks (on Paris), Chinese solidarity is not without ulterior motives”, her essay spoke of China’s anti-terrorism policies in the country’s western region of Xinjiang, the homeland of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority – many of whom complain of discrimination and controls on their culture and religion.