RTÉ Beijing correspondent flees China with husband after ‘pressure and threats’

John Sudworth, the BBC’s China correspondent, said he was followed to the airport by police as he left Beijing
RTÉ Beijing correspondent flees China with husband after ‘pressure and threats’

By David Hughes, PA Political Editor

RTÉ’s Beijing correspondent Yvonne Murray has fled China with her family amid concerns for the safety of her husband, BBC China correspondent John Sudworth.

The couple, who have three young children, have been based in China for the past nine years.

Ms Murray, an Irish journalist, told RTÉ's News At One that Chinese authorities "took issue" with her husband's reporting.

The family took the decision to leave after Mr Sudworth said he faced surveillance, obstruction and intimidation as he reported on issues including human rights abuses in Xinjiang province and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We left in a hurry as the pressure and threats from the Chinese government, which have been going on for some time, became too much," Ms Murray told RTÉ's News At One.

"The authorities took issue with my husband's reporting. He works for the BBC and has reported extensively on the incarceration of Uighurs in Xinjiang, as well as the origins of the virus in China."

Ms Murray had been reporting on issues such as the persecution of China's Muslim Uighur minority and will continue to report on China from neighbouring Taiwan.

In a statement, the BBC said Mr Sudworth had “exposed truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know” and he would continue his work as China correspondent from Taiwan.

Mr Sudworth told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Over the last few years the pressure and threats from the Chinese authorities as a result of my reporting here have been pretty constant.

“But in recent months they have intensified, the BBC has faced a full-on propaganda attack not just aimed at the organisation itself but at me personally, across multiple Communist-party controlled platforms.

“We have faced threats of legal action as well as massive surveillance now, obstruction and intimidation whenever and wherever we try to film.

We, as a family based in Beijing, along with the BBC, decided it was just too risky

“In the end we, as a family based in Beijing, along with the BBC, decided it was just too risky to carry on – which is, of course, sadly precisely the point of that kind of intimidation – and we have relocated to Taiwan.”

Mr Sudworth said other foreign journalists had been forced to make similar journeys to Taiwan, where there is much greater press freedom.

“We left in a hurry, followed by plain clothed police all the way to the airport and through the check-in hall, the true grim reality for reporters here being made clear all the way to the very end.”

The Global Times, a Chinese state-run website, reported that Mr Sudworth “who became infamous in China for his many biased stories distorting China’s Xinjiang policies and Covid-19 responses, has left the Chinese mainland and is now believed to be hiding in Taiwan”.

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