Beijing Versus The BBC
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Beijing Versus The BBC
28th April 2021 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
On the 12th February 2021 the Chinese Communist Party banned BBC World News from broadcasting within China. The move was seen as a response to the decision by Ofcom, the UK’s broadcasting regulator, to revoke the license of Chinese Global Television Network (CGTN). Following an investigation, Ofcom concluded that CGTN “is controlled by a body which is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist party (CCP)”. Yet this in not simply a tit for tat between equals, for one thing the BBC is independent of government.
Moreover, the decision by Beijing comes in the shadow of a broader campaign against the BBC by the CCP. A recent report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has documented a torrent of disinformation towards the BBC including accusations that it is bias against China and that its reporting is instigated by foreign actors and intelligence agencies. In addition, dissatisfaction with the BBC amongst the British public is highlighted to further claims that the broadcaster is not impartial. Both Chinese diplomats and CCP newspapers have promulgated these narratives, in many cases in response to scrutiny of Beijing’s oppressive policies in Xinjiang.
The saga between Beijing and the BBC continued last month when John Sudworth, a BBC journalist who had extensively covered human rights abuses in Xinjiang, announced his relocation to Taiwan. Sudworth said while in China he and his team faced surveillance, threats of legal action, obstruction and intimidation wherever they tried to film.
The CCP clearly has a problem with the BBC yet the effectiveness of these disinformation and intimidation campaigns is up for debate. What impact do they, and China’s wider disinformation effort, have on global public opinion? How can independent media, and the governments of the open societies in which they are based, respond? Moreover, how can these open societies respond to the challenges posed Chinese state-media without risking a backlash against independent media outlets?
The Henry Jackson Society’s Asia Studies Centre is pleased to welcome Dr Jacob Wallis and Laura Harth to discuss these questions.
Dr Jacob Wallis is a Senior Analyst, at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) International Cyber Policy Centre, specialising in influence operations, disinformation campaigns and election interference. He is the co-author of the report: “Trigger warning: The CCP’s coordinated information effort to discredit the BBC”.
Laura Harth is a political activist focusing on human rights and the rule of law with a focus on China. She is the Campaign Director for Safeguard Defender, an NGO which has led the charge in exposing the illegal practices of CGTN, most notably in its broadcasting of forced confessions.
Gray Sergeant is a Research Fellow in the Asia Studies Centre. He studied International Relations and History at the London School of Economics and went on to complete a Master’s in Chinese Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Most recently, he completed a one year Mandarin language programme at National Taiwan University. Prior to joining HJS, Gray held various positions including campaign roles for the Labour Party in, as well as working in the UK Parliament. In addition, he spent several years in human right advocacy, with a specific focus on Tibet. In 2017 he co-founded Hong Kong Watch, which monitors freedoms and the rule of law in Hong Kong, and is currently the organisation’s Chair.
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