BEIJING (AFP) - China's broadcasting regulator announced on Thursday (Feb 11) it has pulled BBC World News from the air, saying the channel's content had "seriously" violated guidelines for reporting in the country.
In a statement, China's National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) said BBC World News reports about China were found to "seriously violate" broadcast guidelines, including "the requirement that news should be truthful and fair" and not "harm China's national interests."
The move comes after the BBC aired a report on Feb 3 detailing harrowing accounts of torture and sexual violence against Uighur women in Chinese camps.
The NRTA "does not permit the BBC to continue broadcasting in China, and does not accept its new annual application for broadcast," the statement from Beijing said.
The BBC said it was disappointed with the move.
"The BBC is the world's most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour," a BBC spokeswoman said.
In a lengthy investigation based on witness testimonies, the BBC had reported allegations of systematic rape, sexual abuse and torture of women detainees by police and guards in China's western region of Xinjiang.
The region is home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority and has seen a sweeping security crackdown by Chinese forces in recent years in response to separatist unrest.
The report described torture by electric shock, including anal rape by guards using electrified sticks. Women were subject to gang rape and forced sterilisation, witnesses said.
"The screams echoed throughout the building," one was quoted as saying.
Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang.
The Chinese foreign ministry has dismissed the BBC investigation as "false".
British junior foreign minister Nigel Adams said the BBC report revealed "clearly evil acts".
The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson "is committed to taking robust action in respect of Xinjiang," he said, although the government has stopped short of invoking the term "genocide", arguing only British courts can make that legal definition.
A US State Department spokesperson reiterated the view of both the former and new US administrations that China is perpetrating "genocide" against the Uighurs.
"These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences," the spokesman said.
The report also triggered outrage from politicians in Australia, and new calls for China to grant access to UN rights inspectors to tour Xinjiang.
China is accused of compelling Uighurs to parrot Communist propaganda and renounce Islam, forcibly sterilising women and imposing a regime of forced labour.
After initially denying the camps existed, China's government abruptly acknowledged them, saying they were vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.