China takes aim again at BBC as dispute intensifies

The BBC came under fire from Chinese officials and on social media on Friday (February 5) in an escalating diplomatic dispute, a day after Britain's media regulator revoked the TV license of Chinese state media outlet CGTN.

On Thursday, (February 4) Ofcom concluded that China's ruling Communist Party had ultimate editorial responsibility for the channel, the English-language sister channel of state broadcaster CCTV.

Minutes later, China's foreign ministry issued a statement accusing the BBC of pushing "fake news" in its COVID-19 reporting, demanding an apology and saying that the broadcaster had politicized the pandemic and "rehashed theories about covering up by China."

The BBC's coverage of Xinjiang came under heavy criticism after it reported on Wednesday that women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in the region were subject to rape and torture.

China's foreign ministry said the report had no factual basis.

The BBC said its reporting is fair and unbiased.

On Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin slammed the Ofcom ruling as "politicizing the issue on a technical point" and warned that China reserves the right to make a "necessary response".

"China urges the UK to immediately cease these political gimmicks, and correct their mistakes. China maintains the right to make a necessary response in order to safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese media."

China's state media has ramped up attacks on the British public broadcaster in recent weeks.

The foreign ministry's criticism of the BBC was among the top trends on China's Weibo social media platform on Friday.

BBC broadcasts, like those of most major Western news outlets, are blocked in China.

Some people called for the BBC to be expelled in response to CGTN's license being revoked.