China target BBC reporter in clampdown – even children suspected of ‘hiding microphones’

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BBC China correspondent Stephen McDonell, who was on a trip playing Gaelic football in the city of Suzhou, was suddenly confronted with extreme scrutiny by the Chinese authorities. The BBC correspondent said: “I went to Suzhou this weekend to play footy. After checking into a hotel my journalist visa obviously triggered the ‘warning journalist’ buzzer inside Big Brother’ HQ.

“The hotel staff then asked me, ‘why are you here?'”

Police in the city were then informed about his presence.

Mr McDonell explained this was “a regular journalist experience in China”.

He then added that in recent times as Chinese president Xi tightens his security grip on the nation, “plenty of foreign correspondents have rocked up in towns in China with their families for holiday trips only to be questioned by the police, told they can’t stay, followed around etc”.

Mr McDonell then said: “Not sure if they think their kids might be hiding secret microphones?”

The BBC Journalist then expressed his desire to reach out to China’s police authorities for confirmation as to whether this would be a regular occurrence.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China has said that many foreign journalists have been asked to leave China in the past year.

Speaking to DW News Louisa Lim of the University of Melbourne said: “Fundamentally, China’s Communist Party sees foreign journalism as an ideological tool which the West is using to infiltrate their ideology.”

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Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, has claimed that China, under President Xi Jinping, was hardening its stance on the free press.

Mr Butler said: “It’s very disreputable for China, and it also shows that they have a lot to hide.”

Another BBC journalist, John Sudworth, has said that he faced surveillance and intimidation wherever he tried to film.

Speaking on the BBC he said: “We left in a hurry, followed by plainclothes police all the way to the airport through the check-in.

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“The true grim reality for reporters here being made clear all the way to the very end.”

However, a spokesperson for president Xi Jinping, Hua Chunying, said authorities had not been involved in the BBC journalist’s departure and that he left “without saying goodbye”.

“Only in recent days when we were faced with the task of renewing Sudworth’s press card did we learn that Sudworth left without saying goodbye.

“After he left the country, he didn’t, by any means, inform the relevant departments nor provide any reason why.

“We don’t know why he left because he didn’t say goodbye.”

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