China attacks British ambassador Caroline Wilson after she supports ‘watchdog’ role of media

China attacks British ambassador Caroline Wilson after she supports ‘watchdog’ role of media

The TelegraphThe Telegraph

Sophia Yan

·3-min read  

Caroline Wilson was appointed ambassador last September
Caroline Wilson was appointed ambassador last September

The British ambassador in Beijing has been attacked by Chinese state media after she posted on social media about the watchdog role of an independent press holding governments and organisations to account.

Caroline Wilson cited examples where scrutiny from the British press brought positive change, including the Telegraph’s 2009 investigation into MPs’ expense claims that led to parliamentary reform, while a BBC report exposed in 2019 how patients in a nursing home were being abused by staff.

She added that when foreign media turn a watchdog eye toward China, it’s a “good faith” effort to ensure people have access to information, and to support those “who have no voice”.

But multiple pieces in Chinese state media accused her of not understanding China and claimed foreign media were “launching an ideological propaganda warfare against the Chinese political system.”

Ms Wilson, who was appointed ambassador last September, was previously posted to the British embassy in Beijing before serving as consul-general in Hong Kong, and speaks Mandarin.

Chinese state media said that Ms Wilson had yet to learn “how unwelcome some Western media outlets are in China.”

Foreign journalists face increasing threats, harassment and scrutiny by many parts of the Chinese state.

Foreign journalists have been expelled for coverage that Chinese authorities disliked, assaulted while working, and threatened with long-term detention, according to a recent report by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China.

The attacks against Ms Wilson are part of a broader campaign by China that has ramped up against the UK, denouncing British officials via the foreign ministry in Beijing, the embassy in London, and in Chinese state media.

The two nations have clashed over espionage concerns and human rights abuses, especially in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

The foreign ministry in Beijing rejected Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s speech last week to the UN Human Rights Council, urging members to tackle China’s abuses against the Uighur ethnic minority.

A Chinese government spokesperson instead claimed that accounts of human rights violations against Uighurs were “rumours and lies fabricated by anti-China forces.”

Then, on Tuesday, the Chinese embassy in London warned the UK was “going further down the wrong path” after Mr Raab issued a statement about 47 Hong Kong politicians and activists being charged this week under a sweeping national security law.

“It demonstrates in the starkest way the use of the law to stifle any political dissent, rather than restore security which was the claimed intention of the legislation,” said Mr Raab.

Chinese state media have continued to single out the BBC in harsh rebukes after British broadcast regulator Ofcom revoked the license for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN to air programmes in the UK.

Ofcom announced earlier this month it would cancel CGTN’s license as the organisation was “ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” which violated British broadcasting rules that require outlets to exercise editorial oversight over progammes shown, and bar them from being controlled by political bodies.

Beijing responded by banning the BBC in China, though in practice the network was only available as a pay channel in some hotels and homes. Censors block broadcast of BBC stories within China that go against the official propaganda narrative, for instance, reports about human rights violations.

The Chinese embassy in London and foreign ministry in Beijing routinely reprimand the Telegraph and other British outlets for coverage of China that the authorities find unfavourable.