Chinese ambassador in France has no right to give lessons in coronavirus coverage

The secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Christophe Deloire, is appalled by the criticism of the French media and their coronavirus coverage being voiced by the Chinese ambassador in France, Lu Shaye.

In a series of recent media statements, Ambassador Lu has accused “a certain French press” of besmirching China’s image by means of “lies” about its role in the current coronavirus pandemic.

These media – which he never names but which seem, in his view, to represent the entire French press – have “mocked China” in violation of “all media ethics and the most elementary good faith” with an approach “bordering on paranoia,” Lu says.

“This ‘lesson in journalism’ for the French press is inappropriate coming from a representative of the People’s Republic of China, a country that is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index and is one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists,” Deloire said. “Beijing’s censorship of the Chinese media had a very negative impact by delaying the regime’s response at the outset of the coronavirus epidemic.”

Speaking on the cable TV channel Mandarin TV on 15 March, Ambassador Lu accused the media of using “propaganda” methods to “brainwash” the public. In statements posted on the embassy website on 14 and 29 February, he condemned the “irresponsible” comments and “absurdities” being said in the French media about China.

In his previous position as China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu distinguished himself by his contempt for press freedom, publicly calling on the Canadian government to “spend less time bowing down to Canadian journalists preoccupied with human rights.”

The ambassador’s statements reflect a policy concerted at the highest level of the Chinese government that aims to control international media coverage, as RSF demonstrated in a report entitled "China's Pursuit of a New World Media Order" in 2019.

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Updated on 20.03.2020