China to expel French journalist over Uighur report

Magazine told Ursula Gauthier’s visa will not be renewed after officials declare her “not suitable to continue to stay”.

Ursula Gauthier
Gauthier has spent six years reporting from Beijing [Mark Schiefelbein/AP]

China is forcing a French journalist to leave the country following the publication of a report alleging state repression of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province.

L’Obs magazine said on Friday it had received confirmation from Chinese authorities that Ursula Gauthier’s press card and visa will not be renewed after it expires on December 31.

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Gauthier had been under pressure from the Chinese authorities to withdraw the article since its publication last month, L’Obs said.

Uighurs in Xinjiang have long complained of state repression, accusing the government of restricting their ability to practise their religion, and encouraging Han Chinese immigration to the province to decrease their share of the population.

In an editorial published on Tuesday, Gauthier’s colleagues said she was the subject of death threats and a campaign by Chinese state media outlets accusing her of “ideological bias and anti-Chinese prejudice”, charges L’Obs has dismissed.

“Ursula Gauthier is a passionate journalist of Chinese civilisation, who has lived and worked in Beijing for six years,” read the editorial.

“She never wrote that the killing of innocent Chinese people was ‘understandable’, as has been reported … the eviction of our reporter would be a major incident and an intolerable attack on the values we defend.”

Gauthier had reported on “flagrant acts of terrorism and acts of cruel killing”, Chinese authorities said in a statement published on the foreign ministry’s website on Saturday.

READ MORE: The ethnic roots of China’s Uighur crisis

The journalist’s failure to apologise for her article meant she was “not suitable to continue to stay in China” and “China does not tolerate freedom for terrorist purposes”, the statement said.

In its World Press Freedom Index listing 180 countries, Reporters Without Borders ranks China at number 176, just ahead of Syria, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Eritrea.

A boy carries the Uighur flag during a protest outside the Chinese embassy in Ankara [Burhan Ozbilici/AP]
A boy carries the Uighur flag during a protest outside the Chinese embassy in Ankara [Burhan Ozbilici/AP]
Source: Al Jazeera