Beijing (Web Desk) – China has expelled a French journalist who criticised its treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority to leave the country.
The press visa of Ursula Gauthier, the magazine’s Beijing correspondent, expires on Dec. 31, and Beijing has refused to grant an extension, saying a report she wrote supports acts of violence by Uighurs that China considers terrorist activity.
BBC reported that Beijing confirmed it would not renew press credentials for Ursula Gauthier, of the French news magazine L’Obs.
It said an article she wrote about the unrest in Xinjiang supported “terrorism and cruel acts” that killed people.
Ms Gauthier called the claims “absurd” and said Beijing was trying to “deter” foreign reporters in the country.
If her press card is not renewed, Ms Gauthier cannot apply for a new visa, and will have to leave China by 31 December. She would be the first foreign journalist to be expelled since Al Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan in 2012.
China blames the long-running unrest in western autonomous Xinjiang region on Islamist separatists, many of whom it says have foreign ties. But Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, say Beijing’s repression of their religious and cultural customs is provoking the violence.
Ms Gauthier published her article after the attacks in Paris in November, suggesting China’s solidarity with France might have an ulterior motive, to justify its own crackdowns in Xinjiang. The article triggered condemnation from the Chinese government and state media who demanded an apology and retraction from her.