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BBC World News banned from broadcasting in China

China has banned BBC World News from broadcasting in the country, its television and radio regulator announced on Thursday.

China has criticised the BBC for its reporting on coronavirus and the persecution of ethnic minority Uighurs.

The BBC said it was “disappointed” by the decision.

It follows British media regulator Ofcom revoking state broadcaster China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in the UK.

Separately, the broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) said it would stop relaying BBC World Service programming in the region, prompting condemnation from the BBC.

‘Curtailing freedom’

China’s State Film, TV and Radio Administration said that BBC World News reports about China were found to “seriously violate” broadcast guidelines, including “the requirement that news should be truthful and fair” and not “harm China’s national interests”.

It said that the BBC’s application to air for another year would not be accepted.

The BBC said in a statement: “We are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action. The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour.”

The commercially funded BBC World News TV channel broadcasts globally in English. In China it is largely restricted and appears only in international hotels and some diplomatic compounds, meaning most Chinese people cannot view it.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the move an “unacceptable curtailing of media freedom”.

The US State Department condemned the decision, calling it part of a wider campaign to suppress free media in China.

In Hong Kong, the publicly-funded broadcaster RTHK said it was suspending the relaying of BBC World Service radio. It had previously aired it daily from 23:00 to 07:00. It also removed a weekly Cantonese programme from the BBC’s Chinese Service from its schedule.

BBC World News TV channel broadcasts, however, are still available in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, is expected to retain certain rights and freedoms, including freedom of press, until 2047, as part of a handover agreement between China and Britain.

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Chris Yeung Kin-hing told the South China Morning Post that RTHK’s decision was “disturbing and worrying”, amid questions about whether RTHK was instructed to act by the authorities.

The RTHK union also called the decision “extremely regrettable”, adding: “Under the policy of One Country Two Systems, we’ve never seen Hong Kong being required to follow decisions of China’s State Film, TV and Radio Administration before”.

Hong Kong’s Office of the Communications Authority said it “did not set boundaries” and that decisions were up to individual operators.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We condemn this decision by the Chinese authorities. Access to accurate and impartial news is a fundamental human right and should not be denied to the people of Hong Kong and mainland China, millions of whom rely on BBC News every week.”

The corporation rejected accusations of bias and said it would make every effort to bring the news to its audiences, who would “still find ways to access the BBC”.

The actions in China and Hong Kong follow Ofcom’s revoking of the CGTN licence after it found it was wrongfully held by Star China Media Ltd.

CGTN was also found in breach of British broadcasting regulations last year, for airing the allegedly forced confession of UK citizen Peter Humphrey.

CGTN can now also no longer be broadcast in Germany following Ofcom’s decision, Deutsche Welle reports, as the licence in Germany had been approved by Ofcom as part of a sharing initiative.

Worsening relations

Relations between China and the UK have seen a serious deterioration in recent months over Hong Kong, where Beijing introduced a controversial new security law after a large pro-democracy movement swept the ex-colony.

In January the UK introduced a new visa that gives 5.4 million Hong Kong residents the right to live in the UK and eventually become citizens because it believes China is undermining the territory’s rights and freedoms.

And in the past two years China has been systematically blocking or banning foreign media, including in effect expelling journalists from three US newspapers in 2020. The BBC website and its app are already banned in mainland China.

In February the BBC published a report featuring interviews with Uighur women who said they had been systematically raped, sexually abused and tortured in China’s “re-education” camps in Xinjiang. China’s foreign ministry accused the BBC of making a “false report”.

Last month the US said China had committed genocide in its repression of the Uighurs and other mainly Muslim groups.

According to estimates, more than a million Uighurs and other minorities have been detained in camps in China.

China denies that Uighurs are persecuted. Last year China’s UK ambassador Liu Xiaoming told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that reports of concentration camps were “fake” and the Uighurs received the same treatment under the law as other ethnic groups in his country.


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