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China, Britain lock horns over ambassador's article on press freedoms

British-Chinese relations have deteriorated in recent months over media-related disputes and the role of diplomacy in the two countries. Pool Photo by Pang Xinglei/UPI
British-Chinese relations have deteriorated in recent months over media-related disputes and the role of diplomacy in the two countries. Pool Photo by Pang Xinglei/UPI | License Photo

March 10 (UPI) -- Britain's top diplomat to Beijing is defending a post on Chinese social media platform WeChat after being summoned to the Chinese foreign ministry about the article.

Ambassador Caroline Wilson said Tuesday evening on Twitter that she "stands by" her article and pointed out her Chinese counterpart in London wrote more than a dozen editorials for British media.

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"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.

Wilson's article on Chinese social media described the role of foreign journalists as a "watchdog." The foreign press' criticism of the Chinese government also is not the equivalent of "China-hating," the ambassador had said, according to Hong Kong Free Press.

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"Foreign media in China is independent and supervises the behavior of both the local government and the Chinese government," she said.

"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."

The article has drawn a sharp response from China's foreign ministry.

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Diplomatic spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday at a regular press briefing that "any argument for or against China's system would be interfering with China's internal affairs."

Zhao also said Wilson's writing reflects "double standards" and "deeply rooted ideological prejudice" against China.

"Diplomats have an obligation not to interfere with the domestic politics of the host country, and this is a principle that must be observed," Zhao said.

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Conflict is growing between China and Britain at a time when Beijing could be wary of the multilateral Quad partnership and U.S. plans to resuscitate alliances in Asia.

Zhao said Wednesday that China does not oppose the Quad, but that "all cooperation initiatives" must be undertaken with "peace and development" in mind.

The White House said Tuesday that President Joe Biden and his counterparts in Japan, India and Australia are expected to convene their first Quad summit Friday.

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