Game of drones: Chinese giant DJI hit by U.S. tensions, staff defections

SHENZHEN, China – Chinese drone giant DJI Technology Co Ltd built up such a successful U.S. business over the past decade that it almost drove all competitors out of the market.

Yet its North American operations have been hit by internal ructions in recent weeks and months, with a raft of staff cuts and departures, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees.

The loss of key managers, some of who have joined rivals, has compounded problems caused by U.S. government restrictions on Chinese companies, and raised the once-remote prospect of DJI’s dominance being eroded, said four of the people, including two senior executives who were at the company until late 2020.

About a third of DJI’s 200-strong team in the region was laid off or resigned last year, from offices in Palo Alto, Burbank and New York, according to three former and one current employee.

In February this year, DJI’s head of U.S. R&D left and the company laid off the remaining R&D staff, numbering roughly 10 people, at its flagship U.S. research centre in California’s Palo Alto, four people said.

DJI, founded and run by billionaire Frank Wang, said it made the difficult decision to reduce staffing in Palo Alto to reflect the company’s “evolving needs”.

“We thank the affected employees for their contributions and remain committed to our customers and partners,” it said, adding that its North American sales were growing strongly.

“Despite misleading claims from competitors, our enterprise customers understand how DJI products provide robust data security. Despite gossip from anonymous sources, DJI is committed to serving the North American market.”

It did not comment on the other U.S. staff departures that current and ex-employees spoke of, although it told Reuters last year its global structure was becoming “unwieldy to manage”.

DJI, which has become a symbol of Chinese innovation since it was founded in 2006, is one of dozens of companies caught in the crossfire of trade and diplomatic hostilities between Washington and Beijing, like Huawei and Bytedance.

Staff sources and competitors say the company’s brand reach, technical know-how, manufacturing might and sales force mean it won’t lose its crown anytime soon in the multi-billion-dollar U.S. and global markets for non-military drones.

But a December order adding the company to the U.S. Commerce Department’s “Entity List” along with the closure of its R&D operation in California could affect its ability to serve the needs of U.S. customers, according to three former senior executives and two competitors.

The Commerce Department listing, enacted over allegations including DJI enabled “high-technology surveillance”, prohibits the company from buying or using U.S. technology or components.

The same month, Romeo Durscher, DJI’s U.S.-based head of public safety, who had played a central role in building the company’s business in providing drone technology to non-military U.S. government departments and agencies, left his job.

Durscher, a former NASA project manager and an influential figure in the drone industry, now works at Swiss company Auterion, a competitor to DJI.

He said he left DJI because he was disheartened by the staff cuts and what he described as internal power struggles between the U.S. team and its China headquarters. He added that the U.S. reorganisation complicated the task in dealing with the fallout from U.S.-China tensions and winning government business.

“It’s not an easy decision to leave the market leader that’s really far ahead of everyone else,” said Durscher, who joined DJI in 2014. “But those internal battles were distracting from the real purpose and in 2020 it got worse … we lost tremendous talent at DJI and that’s very unfortunate.”

U.S. SECURITY CONCERNS

Privately held DJI doesn’t publish sales figures. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated the American non-military market was worth $4.2 billion last year. Consultancy DroneAnalyst said DJI controlled almost 90% of the consumer market in North America and over 70% of the industrial market.

The December listing by the Commerce Department, and the prohibition on buying U.S. parts, may impact the firm’s mobile apps, web servers and some battery and imaging products, said David Benowitz, head of research at DroneAnalyst and a senior figure with DJI’s enterprise team, which works with industrial customers, in Shenzhen before he left last summer.

DJI said in December that the ban would not affect U.S. customers’ ability to buy and use its products.

The listing followed other official blows. In October, the U.S. Department of the Interior said it would only buy drones from companies okayed by the Department of Defense, which last August published a list of five approved drone suppliers to the federal government – four American and one French.

DJI said there was no “broad-based U.S. government ban on purchasing DJI drones”.

“Congress considered that approach last year and rejected it, because … such a ban would be challenging for many companies and government bodies that rely on drones,” it added.

‘WE’RE STILL PRIMITIVE’

Benowitz said persisting U.S.-China tensions and the push by Washington to support DJI’s rivals could see the company’s North American market share decline. He added that, while the federal government comprised a relatively small part of DJI’s business, its restrictions could have a “chilling effect”, with other buyers worried about tougher measures in the future.

“We’re at a point where there are too many market opportunities for one player to dominate,” he said.

Yet he added alternatives to DJI were relative minnows, though both policy support and security concerns over Chinese drones had brought them growth in the last year. Competitors to DJI include France’s Parrot and California-based Skydio.

Chris Roberts, CEO of Parrot Inc, Americas, said 2020 had been a significant year for the company in the United States, having been named an approved supplier by the Defense Department and won business from emergency services and security agencies.

Skydio announced $170 million in D-round funding last week and said it had a valuation of over $1 billion.

“DJI makes good hardware but we are still very early in the market, and very primitive compared to what ultimately should exist,” Skydio CEO Adam Bry told Reuters.

PHANTOM DRONE FLEETS

When Durscher joined DJI back in 2014, the company’s Phantom series was transforming drones from a niche hobby to a mainstream gadget. He said he was particularly drawn by the chance to bring drones into the kit of fire and rescue departments.

He said the technological advances of smaller rivals in the last year were tempting for some public-safety agencies, who might say “let’s go with this drone now so we don’t have to deal with the data security”.

He added that change could come as government departments and companies looked to replace drone fleets that are nearing the end of their life cycles.

A fleet is typically expected to last three to four years, according to Benowitz.

Durscher and several other staff compared DJI’s internal rivalry over projects to “Game of Thrones”, the TV series where rival factions vie for power. He said this resulted in a rotating door of Shenzhen bosses, and that he reported to 12 different managers in his six years at the company.

Durscher’s departure from DJI followed those of other key executives in North America last year, including director of business development Cynthia Huang.

Huang, who now works with Durscher at Auterion, said job cuts over the past year were the main reason she decided to leave. The losses in Palo Alto, Burbank and Newark had followed cuts made to DJI’s global sales and marketing teams, which Reuters reported in August.

“Some of the people that we lost in those layoffs, it didn’t make sense,” said Huang, who was hired in 2018 to take the lead in building DJI’s enterprise business in North America. “The continued exodus of talent was discouraging.”

Reporting by David Kirton; Additional reporting by Jane Lee in San Francisco, Alexandra Alper and David Shephardson in Washington; Editing by Pravin Char.

Microsoft hack: White House warns of ‘active threat’ of email attack

The US is expressing growing concern over a hack on Microsoft’s Exchange email software that the tech company has blamed on China.

“This is an active threat,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday. “Everyone running these servers – government, private sector, academia – needs to act now to patch them.”

Microsoft said hackers had used its mail server to attack their targets.

It is reported that tens of thousands of US organisations may be impacted.

Ms Psaki told reporters that the White House was “concerned that there are a large number of victims” and said the vulnerabilities found in Microsoft’s servers “could have far reaching impacts”. 

Microsoft executive Tom Burt revealed the breach in a blog post on Tuesday and announced updates to counter security flaws which he said had allowed hackers to gain access to Microsoft Exchange servers. 

The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) attributed the attacks with “high confidence” to a “state-sponsored threat actor” based in China which they named Hafnium.

The tech giant said Hafnium had tried to steal information from groups such as infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions and defence contractors. 

Reuters news agency, citing a person familiar with the US government response, reported that more than 20,000 organisations had been compromised in the US – and many more worldwide.

Brian Krebs, an industry expert and blogger, put the number higher – citing multiple security sources.

“At least 30,000 organizations across the United States – including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments – have over the past few days been hacked by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber-espionage unit that’s focused on stealing email from victim organizations,” he wrote in a blog post.

Mr Krebs warned attacks had “dramatically stepped up” since Microsoft’s announcement. 

News of the breach prompted the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa) to release an emergency directive telling agencies and departments to take urgent action. 

Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Adviser, has also urged network owners to download the security patches as soon as possible.

View original tweet on Twitter

Microsoft has not confirmed the reported figures but said in a further statement on Friday that it was working closely with US government agencies and told customers “the best protection” was “to apply updates as soon as possible across all impacted systems”. 

This is the eighth time in the past 12 months that Microsoft has publicly accused nation-state groups of targeting institutions critical to civil society. 

Microsoft said the attack was in no way related to the SolarWinds attack, which hit US government agencies late last year

Although Hafnium is based in China, it allegedly conducts its operations primarily from leased virtual private servers in the US, Microsoft said. 

China presence

While many US tech firms have had a tumultuous relationship with the Chinese government, Microsoft has maintained a mainland presence since 1992. 

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Microsoft’s business-oriented social media platform LinkedIn is still accessible in China. 

So, too, is its search engine Bing, although locally-grown Baidu dominates the search market.

Tech Tent: The new ‘space race’ for computer chips

Silicon chips are at the heart of many of the biggest technology stories of our time.

Without them, car plants around the world have come to a halt. The technology to make them is now seen by the United States as a key weapon in its trade war with China. And access to the latest and most-powerful versions will determine who wins the artificial intelligence race.

In this week’s Tech Tent podcast, we look at the semiconductor industry and try to answer five important questions about chips.

What’s behind the current shortages?

From Ford and General Motors in the US, to Honda in the UK, and electric car-maker Nio in China: major automotive companies have had to cut back production due to a shortage of chips. Why?

Well it seems the pandemic is to blame, continually making every prediction about chip demand look out-of-date.

First, it made demand for gadgets soar, as years of digital transformation happened in weeks. 

“We’ve been talking about working from home and 5G and IoT and the cloud for years. And now suddenly it’s a reality,” says Jodi Shelton, chief executive of the World Semiconductor Association.

Meanwhile, sales of new cars fell off a cliff and automotive executives cancelled orders for chips. 

But then, an unexpected rebound in sales caught them flat-footed, along with their chip suppliers.

Jodi Shelton says car-makers with “just in time” supply chains came up against a semiconductor industry that cannot just quickly turn the tap on or off.

“They’re going to have to learn that that’s not really the way it works. These are just not products that are off-the-shelf.”

Who is making the best chips?

The shortages have made one thing clear: there is no longer just one kind of chip.

As demand shifts, so does power in the semiconductor industry.

For decades, Intel – with its marketing slogan “Intel Inside” – was the only chip-maker in the minds of many.

But that is no longer the case. Analyst Richard Windsor of Radio Free Mobile says the world has moved on.

He outlines two trends: the use of chips for data storage, and the growing importance of graphics chips (GPUs), which aren’t just for making games come to life but play a vital role in artificial intelligence applications.

And he points to new superpowers in this industry, in particular the Taiwanese company TSMC.

“TSMC is by far the world’s number one manufacturer of cutting-edge silicon chips at this point in time,” he explains.

“It’s very different from Intel. What Intel does is it designs the chips; makes its own chips; and then sells those chips. What TSMC does is make chips for other people.”

And building chip factories – or foundries as they are known – is a hugely expensive business. Richard Windsor tells us that it can cost as much as $25 billion (£18bn) to open a new foundry with state-of-the art equipment.

What is the most important company in chip-making?

Mr Windsor also talks about the vital role played by ASML, a company that is the only supplier of what is effectively a printing press for the very latest and smallest silicon chips.

“A relatively obscure Dutch company,” is how my colleague Leo Kelion, the BBC’s technology desk editor, described the company in an article last year. ASML liked the description so much that it printed it on t-shirts for staff.

“We build the tools that the carpenter uses to build your house,” says Jos Benschop of ASML, explaining how the likes of TSMC, Intel and Samsung all need its equipment.

When the company was founded in 1984 there were ten big players in the chip lithography market. Now it is the only one left.

“As the technology became progressively more difficult to master, and the investment needed became progressively larger, then you had the survival of the fittest. Fewer and fewer companies were able to keep up.”

But that means ASML is caught in the trade war between the US and China. The Trump administration put pressure on the Dutch government to halt the sale of ASML technology to a Chinese customer. That seems to have worked – shipment of the equipment has been delayed.

Why do chips play a role in the US-China trade war?

As China and the United States battle for supremacy in artificial intelligence, access to equipment that builds the latest AI chips is a key weapon.

Dr Pippa Malmgren, a former advisor to President George W. Bush, says the stakes are as high as they were in another technological battle: the space race.

“The new space race at the geopolitical level is for computational power. Who can gather the most data and process that data the fastest? That is why both China and the US, frankly the EU as well, are spending a lot of money on quantum computers, incredibly fast supercomputers. And all of these things require chips,” she explains.

Taiwan, home of TSMC, is on the front line of this battle. Given its fight to be independent from China, you might think it would do whatever the US wanted.

But Dr Malmgren warns that things are not so simple :”Chinese money is heavily invested in Taiwan.

“And I think if you were to ask, can you extricate Chinese backing from the Taiwanese economy, the answer is that it would be very difficult.”

Is Moore’s Law over?

Since the 1960s, the chip industry has been governed by Moore’s Law, which predicts that the capability of computers will double every two years as manufacturers cram ever-smaller transistors on to their chips.

But given that the transistors are now so unimaginably small, can we expect this pattern to continue?

I asked Sophie Wilson, who in the 1980s played a key role in designing what is now the world’s most popular chip, the Arm processor.

She tells us progress is still possible because the industry keeps on finding new ways of cramming more into a smaller space.

“We’ve reached the end of the road many times. And each time we’ve reached the end of the road, there has been some sort of way out,” she explains.

And the future may be 3D.

“What you’ll see over the next few years is stuff working in three dimensions. We can still up the density in a given volume by building more and more silicon layers on top of each other. The silicon layers are very thin, so you can stack them on top of each other,” she says.

And don’t expect China to opt out of this battle.

As it is denied access to current chip equipment, the Chinese government will pour huge sums into research into new approaches with the aim of leapfrogging the United States in the next era of the chip economy.

Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent (BBC)

Exclusive: U.S. suppliers to Chinese chip giant SMIC slow to get export licenses

The U.S. government has been slow to approve licenses for American companies like Lam Research and Applied Materials to sell chipmaking equipment to China semiconductor giant SMIC, even as a global shortage has supercharged chip demand, several sources said.

Licenses for U.S. suppliers to ship much of an estimated $5 billion dollars’ worth of parts and components still have not come through, industry sources said, though many companies sought them soon after the company was blacklisted in December. Certain licenses have been granted, including for small numbers of expensive equipment in recent days.

As policy shifts under President Joe Biden, who took over from Donald Trump in January, U.S. government agencies led by new appointees still haven’t completely decided what should be sold to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp, which produces chips for Qualcomm and other American companies.

The Trump administration placed SMIC on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s entity list over concerns of SMIC aiding China’s military.

The listing, which requires U.S. suppliers to get a license before shipping goods to SMIC, is unusual because it says most products should be granted on a case-by-case basis. However, equipment that can be used to make only the most advanced, 10 nanometer and smaller chips is likely to be denied licenses.

The administration is supposed to make decisions on license applications within a month, but follow-up questions stop the clock.

“Lam Research is still in the application process and has not yet received a response,” a Fremont, California, company spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Applied Materials’ chief financial officer said in a February 18 earnings call that their forecast did not assume licenses would come through. A spokesman for the Santa Clara, California based company declined comment on the licenses this week, including whether the comment was still valid.

SMIC did not respond to requests for comment, but the company has said it provides services solely for civilian and commercial end users and that it has no ties to the Chinese military.

Decisions on licenses have been held up as officials ask follow-up questions about applications in part to determine whether the parts or components could be diverted for use in producing items 10 nm or smaller, sources said.

Washington trade lawyer Giovanna Cinelli said many license applications have resulted in “a lot of back and forth, which has elongated the period of review.”

In a statement, a Commerce Department official dismissed the possibility that curbs on SMIC could contribute to the chip shortage, noting that the shortfall was tied to older technologies while SMIC restrictions relate to leading edge technology. The statement did not address the potential impact of delays in licenses for older technology.

SMIC, the largest foundry in mainland China, is an important player in the global semiconductor supply chain, which is under pressure as pandemic lockdowns drive up demand for electronics such as laptops and phones. Last month, it said it could not meet customer demands for certain technologies and its plants have been running “fully loaded” for several quarters.

SMIC’s technological capabilities lag far behind cutting-edge foundries like industry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, according to industry sources.

Companies like Applied Materials and Lam Research, two key suppliers of production equipment, submitted numerous license applications to sell to the company. The bulk have not yet been acted on, industry sources said.

A spokeswoman for Entegris, a Massachusetts company that submitted license applications to sell to SMIC, told Reuters late Wednesday that it had received its first license within the past week.

Other companies that ship to SMIC include California’s KLA Corp and Axcelis Technologies in Massachusetts. A KLA spokeswoman declined to comment on licenses, and while Axcelis’s CEO spoke of “uncertainty” related to its licenses on Feb. 11th, a company spokeswoman declined to provide an update.

Qualcomm, which uses the Chinese foundry to produce chips with decades-old technology, put in applications for tools SMIC needs to produce them, just in case equipment makers don’t get theirs, an industry source said. But they have not come through yet, the source added.

In September, SEMI, a worldwide industry group, said in a draft letter seen by Reuters that SMIC accounts for as much as $5 billion in annual U.S. sales.

China studies recertification plan for Boeing 737 MAX: Aviation regulator

China’s aviation regulator is studying a plan with Boeing Co on the recertification of Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded for nearly two years, the agency’s vice head Dong Zhiyi said on Monday.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) will conduct airworthiness tests in a orderly and planned way until the major safety concerns are properly addressed, Dong told a press conference.

China says underpricing rare earths will lead to race to bottom

(Reuters) – China’s rare earths are underpriced due to vicious competition and face low resource utilisation, which would lead to a race to the bottom, the country’s industry minister said on Monday.

“Our rare earths did not sell at the ‘rare’ price but sold at the ‘earth’ price… because of competitive bidding, which wasted the precious resource,” Xiao Yaqing from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said during a news briefing.

Threats from China, the world’s top producer of rare earths – a group of 17 minerals used in military equipment, consumer electronics and electric vehicles – to curb exports of the materials to the U.S. has left Washington scrambling for alternative supplies.

The country’s rare earths exports hit a five-year low in 2020 amid the pandemic-stricken overseas demand and rising supply in domestic industries.

The MIIT proposed in January to tighten regulation of the rare earths industry chain, including a stipulation that importers and exporters abide by foreign trade and export control laws.

“Government should play a role in maintaining market order, to loose what can be loosen and control what should be controlled,” Xiao said.

The minister said some producers were producing excessive amounts of rare earths, causing environmental issues and leading to low resource utilisation rates.

Meanwhile, the industry is also lacking high-level rare earth products, which is against technological innovation and progress, he added.

“We should learn from Japanese enterprises in this regard, as many Japanese enterprises have done a lot of work in the high-end rare earths products,” he added.

China’s rare earths mining quota in the first half of 2021 were set at 84,000 tonnes, a 27% jump from a year earlier.

China’s Xiaomi adds manufacturing muscle in India to boost phone production

China’s Xiaomi Corp is enlisting more contract manufacturers to make its phones in India, adding heft in a country where it is already one of the biggest smartphone brands.

China’s BYD and DBG will be the company’s new suppliers in India, Manu Jain, managing director of Xiaomi’s India operations, said at a press conference on Thursday.

Xiaomi has been manufacturing phones in India for over half a decade and has rapidly grown in the highly competitive market where voice calling and data costs are one of the lowest in the world.

“Now 99% of our smartphones and 100% of our smart TVs are manufactured in India and the majority of the components for smartphones will be locally manufactured or sourced from India,” the company said.

The company remained India’s top smartphone seller in 2020, with a 26% market share, data from research firm Counterpoint showed.

Its latest expansion plans come at a time when Chinese firms have come under scrutiny as a result of growing tensions between New Delhi and Beijing that began with a border clash last year.

Xiaomi said DBG has set up a smartphone manufacturing plant in the northern Indian state of Haryana, while BYD is setting up a plant in Tamil Nadu in south India.

The company has also opened a new factory in the southern state of Telangana to make televisions, Jain said, adding that all televisions sold in India would be made or assembled locally.

Xiaomi also makes phones at plants in India run by contract manufacturers Foxconn Technology Co and Flex Ltd.

China says ready to enhance exchanges with U.S. on trade – Economic front

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is ready to enhance exchanges with the United States on the trade and economic fronts, Wang Wentao, the country’s new commerce minister, said on Wednesday.

He looks forward to working with U.S. colleagues to focus on cooperation and manage differences, Wang told reporters in a news conference.

Please reload page later for more, thanks!

MWC Shanghai: Gadget companies gather for rare pandemic tech expo

China is hosting one of the few in-person technology trade shows since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 200 companies and about 20,000 people are expected to attend Mobile World Congress Shanghai.

But the three-day event has been scaled back from previous years – 60,000 were at the last MWC Shanghai, in 2019.

Faces masks are obligatory at the show. And exhibitors have been told they must observe “strict” capacity limits at their stands.

MWC Shanghai
image captionNew virtual and augmented reality kit is on show

The event’s organiser said the combination of Covid-prevention measures and the country’s vibrant technology sector meant it was the only place that could host such an exhibition at this time.

“We believe this congress will help strengthen the confidence of the global industry,” GSMA trade association head of Greater China Sihan Bo Chen added.

Under-screen camera

The trade show takes place against the backdrop of continuing US-China trade tensions.

Qualcomm stand
image captionQualcomm and Samsung are among about 50 international companies exhibiting, in addition to 200 Chinese ones

At Huawei’s keynote address, chairman Ken Hu said it had managed only slight growth over the past year.

President Donald Trump’s administration put the company on an export blacklist in 2019 and cut off its access to computer chip manufacturers in 2020.

“Huawei was confronted with some extraordinary difficulties,” Mr Hu said.

The show also comes at a time that other attendees – including US chip designer Qualcomm – have warned they face-chip supply issues of their own because demand is outstripping supply.

But it is also an opportunity to show off innovations.

ZTE Axon 30
image captionZTE is having a second go at an under-screen smartphone camera

So far, these have included:

  • ZTE’s Axon 30 smartphone – its second attempt to make a phone with a selfie camera hidden under the display, after the original was criticised for relatively poor-quality photos
  • Oppo’s 125-watt flash charger, which the company says can fully recharge a smartphone in 20 minutes
  • Huawei’s foldable Mate X2 handset – the company has switched to a design pioneered by Samsung but says it has found a way to close the device so both sides lie flat against each other rather than there being a gap around the hinge
Mate X2
image captionHuawei’s new foldable handset costs the equivalent of about £2,000

The GSMA is still hoping to host a version of MWC in Barcelona at the end of June, when it plans to require visitors to have tested negative for coronavirus within 72 hours of arriving at the venue.

But some have doubts.

“With the current situation, it’s hard to see many people being both willing and able to travel until later in 2021,” Opensignal analyst Ian Fogg tweeted.

“September maybe, June is much more iffy.”

And there is still a question mark over some of the year’s other big technology showcases, with growing speculation Los Angeles’ E3 video-games expo will be limited to virtual live-streamed content.

By Leo Kelion
Technology desk editor

China bans BBC World News from broadcasting

China has banned BBC World News from broadcasting on its territory, according to a decision announced on Thursday by its broadcasting regulator.

China has criticised the BBC for its reporting on coronavirus and the persecution of ethnic minority Uighurs. 

The BBC said it was “disappointed” by the decision.

It follows British media regulator Ofcom revoking state broadcaster China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in the UK

Ofcom’s decision earlier this month came after it found that CGTN’s licence was wrongfully held by Star China Media Ltd.

CGTN was also found in breach of British broadcasting regulations last year, for airing the allegedly forced confession of UK citizen Peter Humphrey.

In its decision, China’s State Film, TV and Radio Administration said BBC World News reports about China were found to “seriously violate” broadcast guidelines, including “the requirement that news should be truthful and fair” and not “harm China’s national interests”.

It said that the BBC’s application to air for another year would not be accepted.

The BBC said in a statement: ‘We are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action. The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour.”

The commercially-funded BBC World News TV channel broadcasts globally in English. In China it is largely restricted and appears only in international hotels and some diplomatic compounds, meaning most Chinese people cannot view it.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the move an “unacceptable curtailing of media freedom”.

View original tweet on Twitter

The US State Department condemned the decision, calling it part of a wider campaign to suppress free media in China.

Relations between China and the UK have seen a serious deterioration in recent months over Hong Kong, where Beijing introduced a controversial new security law after a large pro-democracy movement swept the ex-colony.

In January the UK introduced a new visa that gives 5.4 million Hong Kong residents the right to live in the UK and eventually become citizens because it believes China is undermining the territory’s rights and freedoms.

And in the past two years China has been systematically blocking or banning foreign media, including in effect expelling journalists from three US newspapers in 2020. The BBC website and its app are already banned in the country.

In February the BBC published a report featuring interviews with Uighur women who said they had been systematically raped, sexually abused and tortured in China’s “re-education” camps in Xinjiang. China’s foreign ministry accused the BBC of making a “false report”.

Last month the US said China has committed genocide in its repression of the Uighurs and other mainly Muslim groups.

According to estimates, more than a million Uighurs and other minorities have been detained in camps in China.

China denies that Uighurs are persecuted. Last year China’s UK ambassador Liu Xiaoming told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that reports of concentration camps were “fake” and the Uighurs received the same treatment under the law as other ethnic groups in his country.

Source: BBC News