Last Update 16:41
Saturday, 19 October 2019

Expelled French journalist 'surreal' ahead of China departure

AFP , Thursday 31 Dec 2015
Ursula Gauthier, the Beijing-based correspondent for French news magazine L'Obs, looking on during an interview in her apartment in Beijing December 28, 2015 (Photo: AFP)
Views: 1249
Views: 1249

A French reporter forced to leave China by authorities after she criticised government policy in violence-wracked, mainly Muslim Xinjiang, said she had been left with a feeling of "surreality" Thursday ahead of her departure.

Beijing accused Ursula Gauthier, the China correspondent for France's L'Obs news magazine, of supporting terrorism after she wrote an article questioning official comparisons between global Islamist violence and the unrest in the homeland of the Uighur ethnic minority.

It then refused to renew her credentials, obliging her to leave when her visa expires.

Gauthier had "a very strong feeling of surreality" on her last day in Beijing, she told AFP as she carried out her final packing and finished an article ahead of going to the airport for a late-night flight.

"Everything which happened was so quick and strange," she added, adding it was hard to take in.

In her story for L'Obs, Gauthier questioned China's motives in expressing sympathy for the victims of the November 13 Paris attacks, writing that they were calculated to tie Beijing's harsh policies in Xinjiang into the fight against global terrorism.

The veteran reporter, who has spent years in China, suggested that violence by Uighurs against civilians in the region -- where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years -- was in part driven by resentment of government policies.

"I didn't write that I supported terrorism, I never supported terrorism in my article," she told AFP earlier.

"I was simply explaining that the Uighurs' anger came from somewhere, just like we can explain the origin of the anger of young Arabs who become radicalised, there are roots to it," she added.

Gauthier views her treatment as an attempt "to intimidate foreign correspondents in China, particularly on issues concerning minorities, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang".

Chinese media and officials heavily criticised her article, with the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times saying it "severely distorted the reality in Xinjiang" and represented a "double standard" on terrorism.

The journalist said her home address was posted online alongside death threats from angry readers.

China's foreign ministry said she "flagrantly championed acts of terrorism... triggering the Chinese people's outrage".

Asked whether Gauthier would ever be allowed to return to China, ministry spokesman Lu Kang left the issue open on Thursday, telling a regular briefing: "It entirely depends on her."

Foreign correspondents' visas in China are tied to their official credentials, so that the ministry's refusal to renew her press card meant her right to remain in the country would expire on December 31.

The decision to effectively expel Gauthier has been widely criticised by press freedom groups such as Reporters Without Borders.

"The government is yet again putting pressure on journalists who criticise its policies," the organisation said in a statement last week.

L'Obs director Matthieu Croissandeau told AFP: "This is an unacceptable attack on freedom of information and creates a real obstacle for journalism in China."

France said that the denial of a visa was "regrettable".

Le Monde newspaper in an article signed by editors and reporters from multiple French media said the expulsion was "unjustifiable", calling on the French government to make a stronger protest.

France's current focus on improving economic ties with China "guaranteed in a way that Paris would allow Ms Gauthier to be expelled without making too much of a fuss", it said.

"The lack of firmness of the French authorities is irresponsible," it added.

Short link:


Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.

© 2010 Ahram Online.