A French journalist working in China has been ordered to leave after she appeared to call the country's treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority into question. Chinese authorities have refused to renew Ursula Gauthier's visa and said she must leave the country by 31 December 2015.
The Beijing correspondent for French magazine L'Obs (formerly known as Le Nouvel Observateur) has been told that she must issue a public apology and distance herself from a previous story. Following a series of terror attacks in Paris last month, Gauthier published a story on 18 November stating that China's "solidarity is not without ulterior motives" and that Beijing was using the atrocities to justify its clampdown on Muslim Uighurs in the country's northwest by claiming that violence in the largely Muslim area of Xinjiang is part of global terrorism.
According to reports, China's Foreign Ministry had requested that Gauthier publicly withdraw her story. They want a public apology for things that I have not written," Gauthier said. "They are accusing me of writing things that I have not written." She added that the move was a tactic of intimidation by Beijing to "show all the foreign correspondents here what you get if you write whatever is not palatable to Chinese authorities. That's the message."
Speaking in an interview with europe1.fr, Gauthier said that she wants France to intervene in the matter, but expressed little hope that it had done so. "If I had actually written what they [China] accuse me of, I deserve to be put in prison, not expelled," Gauthier told AFP. She added that it was "a pretext to intimidate foreign correspondents in China, particularly on issues concerning minorities" and said that she would not be cowed into retracting her account.
Chinese officials said the report justified anti-government violence. "The article criticised China's counterterrorism efforts and denigrated and slandered Chinese policies. It provoked the strong indignation of the Chinese public," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.