BBC's Sudworth not brave enough by 'fleeing' from the mainland to Taiwan
Published: Apr 03, 2021 08:05 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

BBC's Beijing correspondent John Sudworth left the Chinese mainland without notifying Chinese officials or fulfilling any departure-procedures required of a foreign resident journalist in China. He has "fled" to Taiwan and made himself the center of a breaking news. Some people in Xinjiang plan to seek legal redress against him and sue him for spreading misinformation. 

As Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Thursday, "if he was worried about being sued by people in Xinjiang, he should have stayed to face the litigation if he knew for sure he hadn't produced any fake news or rumors. If he was concerned about his safety, he could have called the police. But he chose to run. Why? "

File photo of John Sudworth

File photo of John Sudworth

I have met Sudworth before. When I went to Hong Kong in 2019, he was also there to report about the city's situation. He interviewed me but because I was too busy, I did not see how he later used the interview materials. Another time in London, I was taking an interview at the BBC headquarters. The host's questions were sharp and arrogant. I refuted him straightforwardly as well. After the interview, the host smiled and hoped I wasn't offended because that's how BBC's interviews are conducted. And I did not mind, actually.

Not long ago, a famous BBC host interviewed me online and the questions were, as expected, full of arrogance and prejudice. He did not know much about China. I am actually used to it.

Sudworth is personally responsible for the BBC's anti-China reports in the past few years, especially Xinjiang-related topics. It will eventually be proven that this is a stain in his journalism career. Sudworth has lived in China for 9 years and he should know better than ordinary Westerners about what China is really like. 

The anti-terrorism situation in Xinjiang was tense in the past few years, and Sudworth should be clear about this. Due to the urgent situation, Xinjiang has to take some unusual de-radicalization measures which have helped successfully stabilize the situation. This should have been easy for Sudworth to understand.

If checked by Western logic and mentality, people may find faults in Xinjiang's de-radicalization measures. But those measures have saved Xinjiang - restored peace and tranquility, guaranteed the most basic rights for all ethnic groups and protected the people from being plagued with terrorist attacks and chaos. Different people may have different opinions on the pros and cons of such measures, but officials in Xinjiang are responsible and work with goodwill. Their intention was, and still is, to benefit all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, including Uygurs. They have no malicious intent of persecuting ethnic minorities. Sudworth has been to Xinjiang many times and his reporting should have included this dimension. He should have introduced this to the Western society.

China emphasizes national unity with its basic system of socialism. Sudworth has been to Xinjiang for many times. How can a "genocide" happen in Xinjiang? How can there be a large-scale "forced labor"? Sudworth interviewed CEO of Volkswagen Group China in November 2020, asking why the company still did not move factories out of Xinjiang. But is moving factories out of Xinjiang good for the Uygur people? Those political elites who are far away in Washington and London have fallen into ideological fanaticism and lost their minds. But did Sudworth not know what was going on? However, Sudworth not only catered to the extreme Western anti-China sentiments, but also kept fabricating reports to create new public hatred toward China. Does this show a journalist's responsibility for this era?

I have noticed that some of Sudworth's videos lack facts. There are many details describing how his interviews were "disturbed." In truth, he wasn't treated differently because he is a BBC reporter. Many people in China's grassroots areas are reluctant to cooperate with news reporters. However, Sudworth described this general sentiment as an organized action to cover up the so-called persecution of Uygurs in Xinjiang. He also interpreted some interviewees' rejection and vigilance as the so-called institutional suppression. As a result, as an interviewer himself, Sudworth always became a prominent role in the report. This time he has left the mainland unceremoniously for Taiwan, making himself the center of the news due to the hype. Since Sudworth did not get any facts right in his interviews, he made his personal roles more prominent. That is not how a professional reporter should act.

At last, I have to say that Sudworth is not brave enough, indeed, as Hua asked, "But he chose to run. Why?" Even if some people in Xinjiang sued him, what can they do to him? There have been so many reporters who have braved through countless dangerous scenarios. Is he so scared of being sued? Sudworth fled from the place that he reported on for many years and now he is making accusations from a safe distance, making himself seem like a tragic story. Does he really think this is honorable?

The author is editor-in-chief of the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn