BBC China correspondent strikes to Taiwan from Beijing as tensions develop

Children have fun on Dove Lane in Hotan City northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

A seniorBBC correspondent said Wednesday he had left China for Taiwan, after facing legal threats and pressure from authorities over his reporting on Xinjiang rights abuses and the coronavirus pandemic.

Sudworth's wife, Yvonne Murray, a correspondent for the Irish broadcaster RTE, went with him to Taiwan.

At least 18 foreign correspondents were expelled by China a year ago, during a tit-for-tat row with the United States that decimated the global press presence in the country. "The BBC is proud of John's award-winning reporting during his time in Beijing and he remains our China correspondent". In the interview that aired Wednesday (March 31), he said his departure made clear "the true grim reality for reporters" in China.

Beijing - which maintains that the camps are vocational training centers that help to deradicalize citizens - has accused the broadcaster of going on "a spree to spread explicit falsehoods about China's policy" in the region.

"Over the last few years the pressure and threats from the Chinese authorities as a result of my reporting here have been pretty constant", Sudworth told BBC radio.

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The Foreign Correspondents' Club said Sudworth left after months of attacks including videos posted online by state media that used videos of him obtained from Chinese police cameras.

The ban came after China's Foreign Ministry strongly criticized a BBC report on China's re-education camps in Xinjiang.

State media have reported that residents in Xinjiang are preparing to sue BBC over its reports on the region.

The affairs of Hong Kong are purely China's internal affairs and the Chinese government is determined and confident to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, said Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Hua Chunying during Tuesday's press conference. "If John Sudworth believes that his report is fair and objective, then he should be courageous and respond to the lawsuit instead of being afraid".

China has repeatedly said the BBC's report was false and it has also forcefully denied other claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang raised by western governments and rights groups. Most were in response to USA moves to force Chinese state media to reduce their staff in America.

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