UK ambassador to China Caroline Wilson has defended an article she wrote on Chinese social media arguing that an independent foreign media played a “positive role” as a watchdog for Chinese authorities.
Her comments come after the Chinese foreign ministry summoned her on Tuesday to express its “stern representations” over what it called a “biased” article “full of arrogance.”
“I stand by my article. No doubt the outgoing Chinese Ambassador to the UK stands by the 170+ pieces he was free to place in mainstream British media,” Wilson tweeted on Tuesday evening.
In Wilson’s article, posted on WeChat last Tuesday, she defended the role of an independent foreign press as a “watchdog,” saying criticism from the foreign press of Chinese authorities was not equal to “China-hating.”
“Foreign media in China is independent and supervises the behaviour of both the local government and the Chinese government,” she wrote.
“I think they act in good faith and play an active role as a supervisory agency of government actions, ensuring that people have access to accurate information, and protecting those who have no voice,” she added.
China’s departing ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming wrote over 170 articles for UK news publications in his 11 years at the post, including op-eds defending the controversial Huawei 5G network in the Telegraph. He quit last December and will be replaced by China’s Vice-Foreign Minister, Zheng Zeguang.
Earlier on Tuesday, the ministry summoned Wilson to express its “stern representation” over her article, calling it “inappropriate,” “selectively blind,” and “seriously inconsistent with the role of a diplomat.”
“The Chinese government and people have never opposed foreign media, but those who wrongly create fake news under the banner of ‘freedom of the press’ and ‘freedom of speech’ and maliciously attack China, the Communist Party of China, and the Chinese system,” a foreign ministry statement read on Tuesday.
Her article was decried as “propaganda” by Chinese state media last week. Wilson tweeted at the time that the “share” option to her article had been blocked. “Seems like someone doesn’t want my article to be shared,” she tweeted.
The row comes amid rising tensions between Beijing and London over press freedom.
Beijing took UK’s BBC World News off the air last month, shortly after the UK’s communication regulator, Ofcom, revoked the licence of Chinese state-owned broadcaster, CGTN over its state-backed structure. UK authorities imposed fines totalling £225,000 on the Chinese network on Monday for its airing of “forced confessions” from political dissidents.
CGTN can now be streamed in the UK, despite the ban, after France granted it a broadcasting licence earlier this month. The European Convention on Transfrontier Television treaty allows for the free circulation of television content between member countries of the Council of Europe.