Chinese authorities ordered the BBC World News off its airwaves after criticising the British broadcaster’s reports on the COVID-19 pandemic in China and on allegations of forced labour and sexual abuse in the Xinjiang region.
In a statement, China’s State Film, TV and Radio Administration 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”.
In response, the BBC said: “We are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action. 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.”
China’s announcement was seen as a retaliation following British media regulator Ofcom revoking the state broadcaster China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in the UK.
Ofcom’s decision earlier this month came after it found that CGTN’s licence was wrongfully held by Star China Media Ltd.
CGTN was also found in breach of British broadcasting regulations last year, for airing the allegedly forced confession of UK citizen Peter Humphrey.
BBC World News TV channel in China is largely restricted and appears only in international hotels and some diplomatic compounds, meaning most Chinese people cannot view it.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the move an “unacceptable curtailing of media freedom”.
Relations between China and the UK have seen a serious deterioration in recent months over Hong Kong after Beijing introduced a controversial new security law after a large pro-democracy movement swept the ex-colony.
In January the UK introduced a new visa that gives 5.4 million Hong Kong residents the right to live in the UK and eventually become citizens because it believes China is undermining the territory’s rights and freedoms.
In the past two years China has been systematically blocking or banning foreign media, including in effect expelling journalists from three US newspapers in 2020. The BBC website and its app are already banned in the country.
In February the BBC published a report featuring interviews with Uyghur women who said they had been systematically raped, sexually abused and tortured in China’s “re-education” camps in Xinjiang. China’s foreign ministry accused the BBC of making a “false report”.
The US State Department meanwhile condemned the decision, calling it part of a wider campaign to suppress free media in China.
Last month the US said China has committed genocide in its repression of the Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim groups.
According to estimates, more than a million Uyghurs and other minorities have been detained in camps in China.
China denies that Uyghurs are persecuted. Last year China’s UK ambassador Liu Xiaoming told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that reports of concentration camps were “fake” and the Uighurs received the same treatment under the law as other ethnic groups in his country. (Source: BBC)