BBC correspondent leaves China amid security concerns, “propaganda campaign”

A veteran BBC correspondent whose coverage upset China has left the country amid concerns for his safety, the BBC and a journalists’ organization said.

The BBC said on Wednesday that John Sudworth had moved to Taiwan and would continue to be the British public broadcaster’s China correspondent.

The foreign correspondent club in China said Sudworth had left last week “among concerns for his and his safety.”

The organization said Sudworth’s wife, Yvonne Murray, a correspondent for the Irish broadcaster RTE, had left with him.

“John’s work has revealed truths that the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know,” the BBC said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The BBC declined further comment.

Sudworth has been reporting from China for nine years. He won a George Polk Prize last year for his reporting on detention camps for Muslims in the Xinjiang region. China says the camps were vocational training centers and denies any abuse.

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China has held a series of news conferences to deny reports from the BBC and other foreign media on human rights violations in Xinjiang.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club said Sudworth left after months of attacks including videos published online by state media using videos of him from Chinese police cameras.

“In recent years, the pressure and threats from the Chinese authorities as a result of my reporting here have been fairly constant,” Sudworth told BBC Radio. “But in recent months they have intensified, the BBC has faced a complete propaganda attack, not only against the organization but against me personally, across several Communist Party-controlled platforms.”

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The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, reported that Sudworth, “who became infamous in China for his many biased stories that distort China’s Xinjiang policies and COVID-19 responses, has left mainland China and is now believed to be hiding in Taiwan.”

State media have reported that Xinjiang residents are preparing to sue the BBC for their reports on the region.

“This is a completely private operation and has nothing to do with the Chinese government,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday. “We have also not heard of any Chinese government department threatening him. If John Sudworth thinks his report is fair and objective, he should be brave and respond to the mood instead of being afraid. ”

Sudworth’s departure comes amid a chill in relations between China and Western countries, including Britain, over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Beijing’s restrictions on political freedoms in Hong Kong.

The pressure on foreign journalists working in China has increased in the past year. China expelled 18 journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post 2020. Most responded to US measures to force Chinese state media to reduce their staff in America.

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(AP)