China’s abrupt expulsion of French journalist Ursula Gauthier marks yet another low in the government’s efforts to repress foreign reporting, said PEN American Center today.

Gauthier, a reporter for the French weekly paper L’Obs, has worked in Beijing since 2009. In November, she wrote an article for L’Obs criticizing Chinese authorities’ efforts to draw a comparison between the terrorist attacks in Paris and the ongoing unrest in China’s Xinjiang province. Gauthier said the two situations had nothing in common and noted that many human rights groups say the violence in Xinjiang is linked to China’s harsh treatment of the Uyghur ethnic minority population. Her article drew sharp criticism from China’s state-owned press, and authorities demanded that she apologize. When she refused, she was told that she must leave Beijing on December 31, when her visa and press accreditation expire.

“Expelling Ursula Gauthier, a respected journalist, simply for expressing an opinion the Chinese authorities dislike is disgraceful,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center. “The granting of visas and accreditation to foreign journalists should be a routine matter, not a politicized effort to silence critical reporting.”

China has often used foreign journalists’ visas as a way to exert pressure on international media outlets, delaying or denying visa renewals to journalists who work for papers that are critical of the government or that report on sensitive subjects like the wealth of Chinese officials. However, Ms. Gauthier’s outright expulsion is the first time China has taken this step against a foreign reporter since 2012, when Melissa Chan, a journalist with Al Jazeera’s English-language service, was forced to leave the country after Al Jazeera broadcast a documentary on Chinese re-education through labor camps. Authorities also refused to allow another reporter to replace Ms. Chan, leading Al Jazeera to close its Beijing bureau.

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Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,300 U.S. writers working to breakdown barriers to free expression worldwide. www.PEN.org

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Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: sedkins@pen.org, +1 646 779 4830