China calls BBC ‘Bad-mouthing Broadcasting Corporation’

British broadcaster says its reporters covering flood in province of Henan have been subjected to online vitriol

AFP July 29, 2021


Beijing on Thursday launched a scathing attack on the BBC, accusing it of broadcasting "fake news" and saying the organisation was "naturally unpopular" over its coverage of devastating floods in central China.

The broadside by the foreign ministry comes after the BBC called on Beijing to put a stop to the harassment of its journalists by nationalists who have accused foreign media of biased reporting.

Days of heavy rain last week sparked record flooding in the central province of Henan that has claimed the lives of at least 99 people.

The BBC said its reporters covering the deluge had been subjected to online vitriol, while other outlets had been harassed on the ground in "attacks which continue to endanger foreign journalists".

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Thursday called the broadcaster a "Bad-mouthing Broadcasting Corporation” that has "attacked and smeared China, seriously deviating from journalistic standards".

Zhao said the BBC deserved to be "unpopular with the Chinese public" and "there is no such thing as hatred without reason".

The war of words erupted after a youth branch of China's ruling Communist Party on Tuesday posted comments online calling on its 1.6 million followers to track the movements of BBC reporters.

The comments by the Henan Communist Youth League spurred death threats against BBC correspondents from nationalistic internet users.

A year's rain was dumped on the city of Zhengzhou in just three days last week, leaving 14 people dead and more than 500 commuters trapped when the city's subway system flooded during rush hour.

City and provincial officials have faced calls for accountability, with the wife of one of the subway victims telling local media she would sue the metro operator for negligence.

Reporters from AFP were forced by hostile Zhengzhou residents to delete footage and were surrounded by dozens of men while reporting on a submerged traffic tunnel.

Zhao on Thursday said foreign correspondents "enjoy an open and free reporting environment in China".

Officials and state media have long accused Western news organisations of anti-China bias.

(With input from News Desk)


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