China takes aim at 'illegal' club for foreign correspondents

China's criticism of reporters from abroad has become more pointed under the rule of President Xi Jinping.
China's criticism of reporters from abroad has become more pointed under the rule of President Xi Jinping.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China slammed a foreign correspondents' club in the country as an "illegal organisation" in a move that broadens its attack on journalists whose reports differ from the government's official line.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China has no sense of right and wrong and lacks principles, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing on Thursday (April 1) in Beijing.

"Fewer than half of foreign correspondents in China are members of the FCCC, and most of them are Western journalists from the US and Europe," she said. "Foreign journalists in China should feel lucky."

The FCCC declined to comment.

While Beijing has long described the FCCC as illegal, the rebuke as a whole was harsher than in the past. China's criticism of reporters from abroad has become more pointed under the rule of President Xi Jinping, especially as China hits back at Western criticism of its activities in Xinjiang.

Spokesmen for the government now regularly criticise reporters during press briefings, saying they lack credibility or complain about their use of the word "camps" in the far western region.

The government insists they be called vocational education "centres".

Western governments, including the US, accuse China of interning as many as one million Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and forcing them to work. Beijing denies the allegations, saying it is fighting religious extremism and providing jobs.

The BBC's China correspondent John Sudworth recently left Beijing for Taipei after criticism from the government over recent coverage.

The BBC News Press Team said in a statement that his reporting "exposed truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know".

The Communist Party-backed Global Times characterised Mr Sudworth's work as biased. "From stigmatising China as being the origin of the novel coronavirus to claiming Xinjiang's cotton was 'tainted', Sudworth has participated in many of BBC's notorious reports attacking China in recent years," it said.

Beijing last year kicked a slew of foreign reporters out of the country, saying most of the expulsions were in response to curbs the US placed on Chinese reporters.