Ursula Gauthier is set to be the first foreign journalist to be shown the door since 2012 after writing an article which criticized Chinese government policy towards Uighurs in Xinjiang.
French news magazine L’Obs confirmed in a statement on Friday that Gauthier would not have her J visa renewed, presenting her with no choice other than to leave the country by December 31.
In the article, originally published on December 18, Gauthier suggested that China was using last month’s Paris attacks to justify crackdowns on Uighur people in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. L’Obs said Gauthier has since received death threats after her article was published.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, said the article “openly supports terrorist activity, the killing of innocents and has outraged the Chinese public.” His comments appeared in a question-and-answer posted on the ministry’s website on Saturday.
Gauthier has since defended her article, calling accusations by the Chinese government nonsensical. “If it were true, if I was really supporting terrorism, I should have been indicted because it is a crime,” she said. “[But] they are not indicting me, they are expelling me and they expect people to believe that this is the real issue.”
“Nobody is saying there is no terrorism in Xinjiang,” Gauthier added. “But they want us to say there is only terrorism in Xinjiang. This is the problem.”
Earlier today the Global Times published a scathing editorial which tore into the journalist and her employer L’Obs, stating that their articles were “biased” and “unprofessional.” One paragraph reads as follows:
Reading Gauthier’s articles, a professional journalist can easily find them full of emotional speculation and short of professionalism. Gauthier’s reports do not seem to have come from a person who has been living in China for years. Ignorant of what is really taking place in China, she writes articles out of stubborn Western stereotypes.
Responding to the incident, the French foreign ministry issued a statement yesterday in which it regretted that her visa was not renewed. “France would like to remind how important it is for journalists to be able to work everywhere in the world,” it said.
Gauthier’s expulsion marks the first time a foreign journalist has been expelled from China since 2012 when Melissa Chan, an al-Jazeera English correspondent known for reporting on human rights issues, was forced to leave.
[Image via The Guardian]