Hours after China barred BBC World News from its television networks and Hong Kong's public broadcaster said it would stop relaying BBC World Service radio, the UK dubbed the move "an unacceptable curtailing of media freedom".
China's tit-for-tat step came a week after the UK revoked the license of Chinese state-owned broadcaster China Global Television Network's (CGTN). Its National Radio and Television Administration said BBC World News' reports on China had "seriously violated" a requirement to be "truthful and fair", harmed the country's interests and undermined national unity.
The move also came days after BBC News' report on systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China's Xinjiang region. The suspension of BBC radio news programming by Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the publicly funded broadcaster in the former British territory, underlines Beijing's tightening grip on Hong Kong extends to media.
China has criticised BBC for its reporting on the coronavirus pandemic and the persecution of ethnic minority Uighurs and lodged a protest with the British broadcaster. The BBC said it was “disappointed" by China's decision, and that it was "the world's most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour”.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said: "China has some of the most severe restrictions on media and internet freedoms across the globe, and this latest step will only damage China's reputation in the eyes of the world." The Chinese embassy in London responded with a stinging statement, attributed to an unnamed spokesperson: “BBC’s relentless fabrication of ‘lies of the century’ in reporting China runs counter to the professional ethics of journalism, and reeks of double standards and ideological bias.”
“The so-called ‘media freedom’ is nothing but a pretext and disguise to churn out disinformation and slanders against other countries,” it said.
Reacting to the development, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said it was “troubling that as (China) restricts outlets and platforms from operating freely in China, Beijing's leaders use free and open media environments overseas to promote misinformation”.