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31.03.2021 Journalism BBC Journalist Flees China for Taiwan Over Safety Fears

Published 31st Mar, 2021

By Damilola Adeyera

John Sudworth, a journalist with BBC News, has relocated to Taiwa following concerns over his safety and his family’s. 

Sudworth is married to Yvonne Murray, a China correspondent for the Irish public broadcaster RTE. While announcing Sudworth’s departure from Beijing on Wednesday, BBC said he and his family were trailed to the airport and “into the check-in area by plainclothes police officers”.

For nine years, the journalist had lived in China, a place where he and his team, as a result of their work, faced surveillance, threats of legal action, obstruction and intimidation wherever they tried to film and document stories. Sudworth’s reporting colleagues are still in Beijing as of the time of filing this report. 

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The Global Times, published by the Communist party’s official People’s Daily newspaper, describes Sudworth as a “biased journalist” known for publishing “many biased stories distorting China’s Xinjiang policies and COVID-19 responses”.

But BBC News has always differed, saying they are “proud of John’s award-winning reporting during his time in Beijing and he remains our China correspondent”. The British news outfit said John is facing persecution for exposing “truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know”.

A statement by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) of China expressed concerns and sadness over Sudworth’s relocation. 

“Abuse of Sudworth and his colleagues at the BBC form part of a larger pattern of harassment and intimidation that obstructs the work of foreign correspondents in China and exposes their Chinese news assistants to growing pressure,” read the statement.

The FCCC notes with dismay the increasing frequency of erroneous claims by Chinese state and state-controlled entities that foreign correspondents and their organizations are motivated by anti-China political forces to produce coverage that runs counter to the Communist Party’s official line. Alarmingly, Chinese authorities have also shown a greater willingness to threaten journalists with legal measures, proceedings that could subject them to exit bans, barring them from leaving China.”

The Guardian quoted a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, Joanne Ou, as saying it could not comment on individual cases but added: “We welcome all reporters from media outlets to come to Taiwan and enjoy freedom of the press and speech.”

Among Sudworth’s numerous honours for his work was winning the International Journalist of the Year category of the 2020 One World Media Awards, with FIJ’s ‘Fisayo Soyombo and Sky News’s Alex Crawford as finalists.

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Published 31st Mar, 2021

By Damilola Adeyera

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