France’s Le Monde last week cast doubt on if a “freelance journalist” named Laurene Beaumond, who ostensibly contributed to a report on Chinese state television network CGTN, actually exists.
Beaumond ostensibly criticized Western media for inaccurate reporting on China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. Chinese officials insisted Beaumond is a real person after Le Monde found no record of her at the university CGTN claimed she attended and no accredited French journalist using her name.
An article published under Beaumond’s name on CGTN’s website claimed allegations of China using concentration camps, sterilization, and forced labor against the Uyghurs were “fake news” written by people who have never visited Xinjiang province. Beaumond said she was “French and lived in China for almost seven years,” with visits to Xinjiang from 2014 to 2019.
Le Monde and other French outlets investigated and found no identification cards issued to Beaumond by the French commission that handles such credentials. There was also no record of a graduate under her name from the Sorbonne with the majors attributed to her by CGTN, and no Laurene Beaumond bylines at the French papers she supposedly worked for.
Beaumond’s Twitter account was only created a month ago and Google searches found no previous articles written by her, save for a March 31 post at the website of another Chinese state media outlet.
“The problem is that Laurene Beaumond does not exist as [Chinese] state media wants to present it,” Le Monde wrote.
Another French paper, Le Figaro, subsequently claimed “Laurene Beaumond” is a pseudonym but the writer is a real person, or at least someone responded to a Le Figaro correspondent claiming to be her.
This person said she was a 40-year-old former translator and on-air talent for a news program in Beijing, which seems rather different than the biography CGTN wrote for her. She said she began using a pseudonym because she was “worried about my safety.”
“I am appalled by the baseness of the attacks on my signature, and that it can be said that I do not exist,” she told Le Figaro.
“The use of another name can often allow a freer expression and without constraints, and not only in the journalistic field, but also in historical frameworks like the Resistance during the Second World War,” CGTN explained in grandiose fashion. No one seemed interested in explaining why a woman living in China would feel concerned for her safety after writing an editorial in defense of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Le Monde remained skeptical, arguing that CGTN and its anonymous writer still have not released enough details of her real identity to confirm that she has the background and credentials claimed for her.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Thursday angrily insisted the person using the name “Laurene Beaumond” is a “French national” who has “lived in China for many years and visited Xinjiang many times,” and her article defending the CCP from allegations of forced labor and genocide is “a record of what she saw and heard in Xinjiang and the truth and reality on the ground, which is very objective and fair.”
“If a foreign journalist reports about China in a way that is different from many Western media, he or she must not be a Western journalist, and may even be part of China’s false propaganda. This kind of thinking is very unhealthy,” Hua (pictured) sneered.
“Le Monde claimed, without stringent verification, that this person ‘doesn’t exist’ and has been ‘invented’ by the French channel of CGTN. Who I wonder is really making fake news? As I said just now, the question itself reflects the unhealthy thinking of some countries and media, who believe that anything that does not conform to their imaginations as well as so-called values and ideologies must be false. It is nothing but groundless accusations and label-pinning, and it is no good doing that,” the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
CGTN wrote an angry editorial running with Hua’s accusation that Le Monde created fake news by accusing China of creating fake news, complaining that “anti-China” social media boosted the “misleading content” from Le Monde in a “persistent effort from Western voices to delegitimize and discredit everyone who questions the conventional wisdom pushed regarding the Uyghur minority.”
This was followed by a lengthy diatribe at the West for believing it has a “monopoly on what might be described as ‘political truth,’” derived from its damnable “legacy of Christianity” and the Western belief in absolute morality.
“The world must wake up to the reality that the reports on Xinjiang are not being made in good faith. They are focused entirely on a false narrative and being coordinated to wage a hybrid war against China,” the editorial thundered.
One of the “anti-China” voices CGTN railed against, researcher Adrian Zenz, pointed out Thursday the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not attempt to defend CGTN’s claims that “Laurene Beaumond” was a journalist who worked in France and currently lives in the Xinjiang region – it only claimed that a living person who has “frequently traveled to Xinjiang” wrote the article under Beaumond’s byline.