Foreign Ministry Spokesperson: A guilty conscience is the only explanation for the abnormal departure of John Sudworth, BBC China correspondent
2021-04-01 00:29

At the Foreign Ministry's press conference on April 1, 2021, FM Spokesperson Hua Chunying made comments on abnormal departure of John Sudworth, BBC China correspondent.

The Paper: BBC said on Twitter yesterday that John Sudworth has relocated to Taiwan and he remains their China correspondent. Sudworth also took an interview with BBC. The FCCC criticized China's "worsening working conditions" in a statement. Do you have any response?

Hua Chunying: After the abnormal departure of John Sudworth from China's mainland, some people came together to put on a farce, a textbook example of how to shift the blame to the innocent party by distortion of facts and fallacy of composition.

First, John Sudworth left unceremoniously without notifying the competent Chinese officials or fulfilling any departure procedures required of foreign resident journalists in China. If he was worried about being sued by people in Xinjiang, he should have stayed to face the litigation if he knew for sure he hadn't produced any fake news or rumors. In China, a place with rule of law, no innocent people will be wronged. If he was concerned about his safety, he could have called the police. Relevant Chinese departments protect the safety of foreigners in China. People with a clear conscience have nothing to fear at night. But he chose to run. Why? Why did he leave in such a hurry? What's he worried about? What's he afraid of? There is only one explanation: a guilty conscience.

Although Mr. Sudworth departed without fulfilling the required procedures, we could have left it there. But then he tried to deflect the blame. And he's not doing it alone by posing as a victim, but has also rallied the BBC and the so-called FCCC to issue statements. All this is utterly unacceptable. We must point out that China is the victim when it comes to BBC's disinformation targeting China. In recent years, BBC has fabricated a large amount of immoral fake news and disinformation, especially on COVID-19 and Xinjiang, which has not only caused direct damages to the interests of some people in Xinjiang, but has also cast a severe negative influence on China's national image. China lodged solemn representations over this repeatedly with the BBC, asking it to correct its mistakes and uphold press ethnics to cover China in an objective and just manner. However, John Sudworth, instead of mending their ways and changing course, went from bad to worse. Now they are trying to extort and threaten China with the abrupt departure of Sudworth. Nothing could be more absurd. This only serves to show the character of Mr. Sudworth and how pathetic the time-honored BBC is.

Besides, according to Article 13 of the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on News Coverage by Permanent Offices of Foreign Media Organizations and Foreign Journalists (Decree of the State Council No. 537) and Section G, Part 1 of the Handbook for Foreign Journalists in China, residents journalists should go through relevant procedures before terminating their posts in China. Mr. Sudworth didn't notify the relevant department or fulfill any due procedure. His Press Card has now expired and he no longer retains the status of a resident journalist.

Second, the FCCC statement is a perfect example of giving a one-sided story that distorts facts and blames the innocent party for what one is guilty of.

First of all, the FCCC is an illegal organization, which China has never acknowledged.

Second, fewer than half of all foreign correspondents in China are members of the FCCC, which has basically become a small circle of Western correspondents from the US and Europe. And even within this small circle, so far as I know, FCCC statements are always crafted by several board members, while other journalists are kept in the dark.

Third, the FCCC says nothing about the large amount of assistance and support that China provides to foreign journalists working and reporting in China, but makes complaints from time to time, claiming that the reporting environment in China is deteriorating. Instead of advising against the many false reports by BBC correspondent John Sudworth, FCCC endorses his erroneous acts. It has no sense of right and wrong, and follows no principles.

Fourth, the FCCC statement said that John Sudworth had endured a long period of uncertainty about his ability to raise his family in Beijing, after spending the past two years being kept on a series of short visas valid for only a few months, which the organization claims to reflect the deteriorating environment for foreign journalists. But the fact is that the majority of nearly 500 foreign journalists in China (over 98%), including the FCCC board members, are granted press cards with one-year duration. Many foreign journalists have been working in China for more than 10 or even 30 years. John Sudworth and his family had been in China for nine years. His wife, who is also a journalist, also has a press card valid for one year. How is that possible for the family to have stayed in China for nine years if he was under threat? Besides, do they know that all Chinese journalists in the US have their visa limited to a maximum 90-day stay, which means they have to apply for visa renewal every three months and pay an extra $455 for each application?

By contrast, foreign journalists in China should feel lucky. The FCCC is well aware of this. It just doesn't want to admit it.

Fifth, the statement mentioned the "departure of Sudworth...on top of at least 18 correspondents last year". The merits of the issue concerning journalists between China and the US are very clear. The US side, out of political oppression of China, the US denied or delayed visa issuance for more than 20 Chinese journalists and expelled over 60 without cause. China is forced to make justifiable and necessary reactions. As correspondents, members of the FCCC are fully aware of that, aren't they? The statement on the one hand said Sudworth left China's mainland on his won will, but on the other hand mentioned it in the same breath with the expulsion of those US journalists last year. What a shoddy lie!

Sixth, the statement claimed the attacks against Sudworth and the BBC escalated after Britain's broadcasting regulator Ofcom revoked the license of CGTN in accordance with law. I must point out that as an international, professional media agency, CGTN has been making objective and honest reports following ethics of journalism. It has played an active role in enhancing communication and understanding between China and the UK but suffered political oppression from the British side. China reserves the right to make necessary, legitimate reactions.

Seventh, the FCCC statement said the departure of Sudworth is a loss for anyone committed to understanding China. This is far from the truth. Without his malicious rumor-mongering and disinformation, the outside world will get to know China in a more objective, true and unbiased manner.

Finally, I want to emphasize that the life of journalism lies in truth. You may not like China, but you are not allowed to spread rumors and engage in smearing campaign in China. If some Western media continue to put ideology above truth, it will only lead to shattered credibility. China has always been and will continue to be committed to facilitating and helping foreign journalists in their reporting work in China. However, we are firmly opposed to strong ideological bias against China, acts that violate the professional ethics and morality. We also firmly reject manufacturing fake news and disinformation to malign and attack China in the name of so-called freedom of the press.

BBC: A follow-up on that last answer. There is one part of your answer I didn't quite catch. Could you just explain again the section about the court matter in Xinjiang. Is it you understanding there was to be court action definitely? Can you just clarify a bit more on that part of your answer?

Hua Chunying: It is only through media reports that I've come to know about it. I'm not aware of all the details, but John Sudworth did say that he was very nervous and afraid, didn't he? He told BBC so himself, and both the FCCC and the BBC statements say that he felt under threat in China. He even went so far as to say that the Chinese government threatened him. In what way did the Chinese government threaten him? You've been in China for years yourself, do you feel threatened? Even though you (BBC people) have produced so much news that is not friendly to China, we still provide convenience and support for your work in the same way as we support other foreign journalists.

As for John Sudworth, it is understandable that he feels nervous about media reports that some Xinjiang residents want to sue him. By producing a large amount of fake news, John Sudworth has not only hurt China's image, but also caused direct losses to the people in Xinjiang. As China is advancing the rule of law in an all-round way, there is stronger awareness among the Chinese citizens to safeguard their rights through the law. If John Sudworth deems his report to be fair and objective, what is he afraid of, and what is he running away from? There is only one explanation- he has got a guilty conscience for what he has done.

We have already refuted many times the BBC's false reporting, and we can go through some together.

The BBC journalist John Sudworth, with preconception and over-generalization, repeatedly concocted patchwork of far-fetched pieces that seriously deviate from facts, and claimed to have met with obstructions in every report. To give you a few latest examples. In making reports about the COVID-19 epidemic, John Sudworth made baseless allegation that the epidemic originated from China. He posted a footage of the police using nets to cover the heads of rioters in an anti-terrorism drill, and said it was proof of law enforcement brutality and human rights abuses by Chinese anti-epidemic authorities. In his Xinjiang reports, John Sudworth filmed footage without the permission of the interviewees. He alleged to have found solid evidence of mass "forced labor" in Xinjiang, when indeed what he had were no more than a few non-photorealistic satellite photos and a few so-called "witness" accounts, without even speaking to local Uyghur residents. He even went so far as to openly try to pressure foreign investors into removing their factories in Xinjiang, calling the vocational education and training centers as "re-education camps", technical schools as "places to conduct Uyghur cultural isolation and family separation", and efforts to renovate mosques as attempt to demolish mosques.

In May 2019, he went to Xinjiang with a pre-written script, filming footage of iron gates, walls, traffic cameras and even toilets all the way through, accumulating what he called "news materials", and then painstakingly editing them together. In November 2020, he questioned Volkswagen China CEO in an almost interrogation manner. After the interviewee said there was no such thing as "forced labor", John Sudworth came up with a very bizarre idea. He said that as long as one has a factory in Xinjiang, no matter where the workers are from, they are helping the Chinese government persecute the Uyghurs. He even employed moral hijack to compare hard-working Uyghur workers with free will to Jews subjected to forced labor by the Nazis during the World War II, and pressed company executives on why they hadn't left Xinjiang yet.

Not surprisingly, such false information and libel by John Sudworth triggered public outrage in Xinjiang. It is understandable that those who suffered losses in reputation and interests due to his false reports would want to take up the weapon of law to protect their legitimate rights and interests. John Sudworth might have felt that as a veteran Western journalist, he would be able to walk away from any consequence of whatever he fabricated. But China is a country under the rule of law. There is a price to pay for those who make rumor and defamation.

I'd like to ask my colleagues to play two video clips. One is a CGTN video showing how the BBC produces fake news, and the other is Sudworth's interview with CEO of Volkswagen Group China. (Two videos played)

In order to save time, we just played a small part of the video, but there's a lot more. Many Chinese people now ridicule BBC as "Biased Broadcasting Corporation" because it reports so much malicious and false news about China. Of course we also note that Sudworth is not the only journalist with the BBC. We noticed that in many cases, you have reported on China in a relatively honest and objective manner. For example, when you interviewed a middle-aged Chinese man and asked him how China was doing with recovery from the epidemic, he laughed and said, "It's much better than your country anyway." This video of your interview has brought joy to a lot of people.

We hope that the BBC will truly abide by professional ethics and morality, report on China in an objective and fair way, and make positive efforts to promote mutual understanding between China, the UK and the world. Only in this way can you live up to your reputation as a century-old corporation. I would also like to ask you to get the message across to your colleagues that some of them may have different views with us, and they may not like China, but they must report the truth rather than fabricate rumors.