China slaps down Britain's ambassador for defending a free press

China slaps down Britain’s ambassador for defending freedom of the press on social media

  • Caoline Wilson, Britain’s ambassador to China, spoke out to defend free press
  • She penned a post on Weibo defending critical reporting of the Chinese government after foreign journalists were accused of being ‘China haters’ 
  • Critical reporting is essential to hold politicians to account, she argued 
  • But she was slapped down by China’s foreign ministry which accused reporters of bias, while censors stopped her post from being shared 

Beijing has rebuked Britain’s ambassador to China for publishing an article defending the role of a free press. 

Caroline Wilson, who took up her post in Beijing last year, penned a post on Chinese social media after a number of newspapers accused foreign journalists of being ‘China haters’ for publishing reports that were critical of the country.

Wilson wrote that critical reporting is not proof of ‘hatred’, but is designed to help leaders identify problems and hold them to account when they get things wrong.

But Beijing quickly blocked users on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, from sharing the post while the foreign ministry issued a statement accusing British media of bias and of publishing ‘fake news’.

Caroline Wilson, Britain’s ambassador to China, has been slapped down by its foreign ministry for defending the role of a free press on social media

Wilson penned an article on Weibo, the country’s equivalent of Twitter (picutred), defending foreign journalists who criticise the country after they were accused of ‘hating’ China

In her piece, she cited examples of how British media are critical of their own government – including reporting on the MP’s expenses scandal – as evidence that they are not biased against China.

She also pointed to critical reports in Chinese media following the outbreak of Covid in Wuhan that revealed how medic Li Wenliang was silenced while trying to raise the alarm about the virus.

‘Their critical reports were not seen as evidence that they hated Wuhan or even China,’ she wrote. 

‘On the contrary, these reports were praised for their role in identifying problems and pursuing accountability.’

She added: ‘No matter where in the world, critical reports cannot prove that journalists do not like this country. 

‘On the contrary, it proves the value of media freedom, which can bring more accurate information and point out areas that need to be changed. 

‘As the motto of the French newspaper Le Figaro says: If criticism is not free, praise is meaningless.

‘I hope that such important reports from Western and Chinese media will be recognized in the future.’

But she fell foul of Chinese censors who blocked other Weibo users from sharing her post, though stopped short of deleting it outright.

‘Seems like someone doesn’t want my article to be shared,’ she added afterwards using the hashtag #defendmediafreedom. 

She was also slapped down by foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin who accused foreign reporters of failing to fairly balance their reports about China.

‘Some British media don’t keep a fair and objective stance, and even make fake news based on ideological bias,’ he said.

‘The facts are clear. The Chinese government always welcomes foreign journalists, including British journalists, to come to China for news reporting.

‘What we oppose is the ideological bias, the behavior of using “freedom of the press” as an excuse to produce fake news or other activities that violate the professional ethics of journalism.’ 

State-run newspapers Global Times and China Daily also published editorials attacking Wilson for ‘making a wrong argument’.

Wilson spoke out amid an increasingly tense standoff between China and the UK over issues including democratic freedoms in Hong Kong and persecution of Uighyur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

The British government has condemned China’s crackdown on Hong Kong using draconian new security laws, while offering 5.4million of its overseas citizens a route to full citizenship.

Beijing has accused the British government of meddling in its domestic affairs.

Last month, BBC World Service was banned from China after publishing a report on persecution of the Uighyurs – including interviews with women who said they had been raped, sexually abused and tortured in ‘re-education’ camps.

It came after British media watchdogs banned China’s CTGN network from airing in the UK because it was controlled by the state, which violates broadcasting codes. 

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