China-UK ties: British ambassador stands by her article on Beijing’s restrictions on foreign media

Rachel Zhang
·3-min read

Britain’s ambassador to China says she stands by her article in which she complained about Beijing’s restrictions on foreign media after being summoned by the Chinese foreign ministry to answer for it.

Caroline Wilson said in the piece, which she posted on the British embassy’s official WeChat account last week, that foreign media were being misrepresented in China and that their criticism of Chinese authorities did not mean they hated China. She illustrated her point by giving examples of British media criticising the British government.

“I stand by my article,” she said on Twitter. “No doubt the outgoing Chinese ambassador to the UK stands by the 170+ pieces he was free to place in mainstream British media.”

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In her article, Wilson said: “I think they [the foreign media] act in good faith and play an active role as the supervisory body of government actions, ensuring that people can get accurate information and protecting those who have no voice.”

The piece was still accessible on WeChat on Wednesday but had been removed from Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

The foreign ministry in Beijing described the article as “full of arrogance and ideological prejudice” and said Wilson complaining about restrictions on foreign media while being “selectively blind” to the suppression of Chinese media in other countries was “seriously inconsistent with the status of diplomats and the functions of diplomatic institutions”.

“What the Chinese government and people oppose is never the foreign media, but the behaviour of publishing fake news and viciously attacking China, the Chinese Communist Party and the system of China under the pretext of ‘freedom of the press’ and ‘freedom of speech’,” it said, quoting the head of the ministry’s Europe department.

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Wilson said in her article that journalists in Britain could “interview politicians on any topic and ask them sharp questions”.

While Chinese news outlets did run some critical reports, “unlike foreign media [they] can only report critically under the conditions permitted by the government”, she said.

Tensions between China and Britain have been running high in recent months, most notably over London’s support for Hong Kong residents seeking to relocate to Britain after Beijing imposed a national security law on the city last year, as well as its criticism of Beijing’s treatment of Muslim Uygurs in the Xinjiang region.

The dispute spilled over into the media last month after Beijing banned BBC World News in China because it “damaged Chinese ethnic unity”. The move came a week after Britain’s regulator Ofcom revoked the licence for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.

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