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China effectively expels French journalist Ursula Gauthier

Officials have refused to renew Beijing-based journalist Ursula Gauthier's press visa unless she apologizes for a story. Gauthier wrote criticially on China's "anti-terror" operations against Xinjiang's Uighur Muslims.

"They confirmed that if I did not make a public apology on all the points that had 'hurt the Chinese people'… my press card would not be renewed and I would have to leave on December 31," Gauthier told news agency AFP. Gauthier cannot apply for a visa unless her press card is renewed.

"If I had actually written what they accuse me of, I deserve to be put in prison, not expelled," the reporter said. The attitude of Chinese officials was "a pretext to intimidate foreign correspondents in China, particularly on issues concerning minorities," she said, adding that she would "not deviate" from her story.

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China expels French journalist

Gauthier is based in Beijing and works for the news magazine "L'Obs," formerly known as Le Nouvel Observateur. Her essay, published on November 18, was called "After the attacks [in Paris], Chinese solidarity is not without ulterior motives." The report discussed Beijing's policies in Xinjiang, where most of China's ethnic Uighur Muslim minority lives. The story also triggered abusive comments from social media users in China and was condemned by the state-run Global Times and China Daily.

'Campaign of intimidation'

Chinese officials said the report justified violence against the government. "The article criticized China's counterterrorism efforts and denigrated and slandered Chinese policies. It provoked the strong indignation of the Chinese public," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said earlier this month.

Meanwhile, efforts by French officials, including Paris' envoy to China, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, have produced no results. The foreign correspondents' club in Beijing said it was "deeply concerned with the attempts of intimidation."

Press organization Reporters Without Borders also denounced the incident, calling it "media lynching" and "campaign of defamation and intimidation" against Gauthier.

Before Gauthier, Melissa Chan, who works for television channel Al Jazeera, was expelled in 2012.

mg/msh (dpa, AFP)

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