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Media & Entertainment

China bans BBC World News from airwaves

UK and US slam Beijing for restricting media freedoms

Pedestrians walk past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in London. The public service broadcaster has been blocked in China.   © Reuters

LONDON -- China's broadcasting regulator has banned the BBC World News from the country's airwaves, the latest salvo in a growing feud over press freedoms between London and Beijing.

The move drew a strong rebuke from the U.K., with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab saying it infringed on press freedoms and calling the measure "unacceptable."

"China's decision to ban BBC World News in mainland China is an unacceptable curtailing of media freedom," Raab tweeted Thursday.

"China has some of the most severe restrictions on media & internet freedoms across the globe, & this latest step will only damage China's reputation in the eyes of the world," Raab wrote.

Chinese authorities said the British broadcaster violated a requirement that news reporting be true and impartial, as well as harmed China's national interests and ethnic unity, according to British media. Beijing has previously objected to BBC reports of human rights abuses and systematic rape and torture at Uighur "re-education camps."

The U.K. has taken a tougher line toward Beijing since the crackdown on former British colony Hong Kong that began with the implementation of last year's national security law. London has begun offering special visas to Hong Kong citizens born before the territory's handover to China that provide a fast track to British citizenship.

British authorities withdrew the license of China state-owned CGTN on Feb. 4, stating that the Chinese Communist Party's editorial control over the channel does not comply with U.K. law.

The U.K. is hardening its stance toward China on the national security front as well. Last July, the government decided to ban Huawei Technologies from the country's 5G communications infrastructure. The navy will dispatch the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to Asia as soon as this spring, the decision made with an eye on China's maritime encroachment in the region.

Great Britain shared extraordinarily friendly ties with China just a few years ago. It was the first Group of Seven country to participate in the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for example. Now an ever-widening divide is forming between the two countries.

The U.S. also weighed in on the situation Thursday.

"We absolutely condemn the PRC's decision to ban BBC programs," U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, urging China to allow its population full access to the internet and media. PRC is the acronym for the People's Republic of China.

"The PRC maintains one of the most controlled, most oppressive, least free information spaces in the world," he said. "It's troubling that as the PRC restricts outlets and platforms from operating freely in China, Beijing's leaders use free and open media environments overseas to promote misinformation."

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