China suddenly takes BBC news off air after Muslim detention camps mentioned

Over a million ethnic Uighurs are being held by the authorities for 're-education'

Peter Stubley
Friday 22 February 2019 18:38
China cuts BBC TV feed during discussion of Muslim detention camps

China censored a TV report about its detention of more than a million Uighur Muslims in “re-education camps” by suddenly cutting off the broadcast, according to a BBC reporter.

Stephen McDonell filmed the moment the World Service Newsday programme went off air as he began to speak about the treatment of the Turkic ethnic minority in the northwestern Xinjiang province.

Mr McDonell, the BBC’s China correspondent, said a similar thing happened the previous day during discussion of the same issue.

“We can pretty much predict the subjects when they will cut the feed and recently coverage of Xinjiang’s mass “re-education” camps has been just such a subject,” he said.

China has come under increasing international pressure over the camps, which it calls vocational training centres and claims are part of a campaign against terrorism and religious extremism.

Earlier this month Turkey called for the closure of the “concentration camps” and described the treatment of China’s Turkic Muslim population as “a great cause of shame for humanity”.

Mr McDonell’s report had focused on the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to China for talks with President Xi Jinping.

After going on air at 7am to file his account of the trip, he decided to record the 8am replay.

The video shows his TV in China going blank as he says: “One thing he might be expected by some in Muslim countries to raise would be the question of the camps in the far west of China. There’s up to...”

Mr McDonell tweeted: ”Here’s the moment China’s censors pull the BBC World TV feed this morning as I’m speaking about the visiting crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the possibility of him raising the mass extra-judicial detention camps holding many hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs.”

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However another replay an hour later was not affected and ran straight through.

“Maybe they were off making a cup of tea or fell asleep next to the big red censor button,” Mr McDonell said.

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