A French woman wrote a lavish article praising Chinese politics in Xinjiang. There is only one problem, she is a counterfeit.
by Marco Respinti
Breaking news: The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is the perfect habitat for Muslims and everybody else, and all you heard about the Uyghur genocide perpetrated by the CCP is a gross lie. The “truth” was published in an article entitled “Mon” Xinjiang: halte à la tyrannie des fake news (“‘My’ Xinjiang: Stop the Fake News Tyranny”), published on March 28 on the French web site of China Global Television Network (CGTN).
CGTN is a 24/24 all-news tv channel in six languages, registered under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and controlled by CCP’s Central Committee Publicity Department (中国共产党中央委员会宣传部). The author of the article is introduced as “Ms. Laurène Beaumond,” “an independent journalist based in France, holding a degree in art history and another in archeology from la Sorbonne-IV, as well as an MA in journalism,” who “has been part of a number of editorial staffs in Paris before laying her suitcases in Beijing where she lived almost 7 years”. There is only one problem. Ms. Beaumond, the supposed fake news debunker, is herself fake news.
She is not what she says to be
French China expert Ms. Nadège Rolland, a Senior Fellow for Political and Security Affairs at The National Bureau for Asian Research, based in Seattle and Washington, D.C., as well as a Nonresident Fellow at the Lowy Institute, based in Sydney, Australia, first raised the doubt that a “Ms. Laurène Beaumond” really exists.
So did Le Monde’s Nathalie Guibert in an article published on March 31 on the web site of that daily newspaper: “Laurène Beaumond doesn’t exist in the way the state media [i.e. CGTN] wanted to introduce her. She’s unknown, officially, in the battalion of French press. Le Monde could verify that no person under such a name or pseudonym is listed in the files of the Commission for the press cards of French professional journalist [Commission de la carte d’identité des journalistes professionnels français.]”
To this, CGTN responded on April 1 stating that “Laurène Beaumond” confirmed via Twitter that she wrote her article using her real name. The problem, however, was that the only Twitter account existing for “Laurène Beaumond” had been suspended for violating Twitter rules.
On April 2, Mr. Sébastien Falletti, Le Figaro’s correspondent in Beijing, reported online to have spoken to “the mysterious ‘Laurène Beaumond’”, which he said is a “pseudonym” “hiding a woman from Sarthe,” a department in north-western France, who used to work for China Central Television (CCTV). This is of course the Chinese state TV, which Sarah Cook, Research Director for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan for Freedom House, described as “a long-standing weapon in Beijing’s arsenal of repression,” whose “mission is to attack designated enemies of the Communist Party.”
Also on April 2, CGTN reiterated the CCP’s department of propaganda narrative, responding to an inquiry by Agence France-Presse (and quoting Le Monde’s report, but not Le Figaro’s). On April 4, Ms. Guibert update her online article in Le Monde web site adding Le Figaro’s findings. On the same day, Mr. Falletti anticipated the final version of his article on Le Figaro web site, and on April 5 his article appeared in the paper version of that journal. The conclusion remained the same: “Laurène Beaumond” is fake news, an unidentified flying object in the sky of professional, trustworthy and reliable news report.
TV and YouTube as propaganda
Media all over the world have now reported on the “Laurène Beaumond” fiasco, but Bitter Winter wishes to put it in context. “Laurène Beaumond” is in fact just another piece of CCP propaganda about Xinjiang. Her article of March 28 of course mentions, in passing, “terrorism,” but basically hers is a fairy-tale Xinjiang where everybody is happy and loves the Chinese Communist Party. “Laurène Beaumond” plays the smiling, good cop. The bad cop is played by a four-parts propaganda “documentary” by a “state broadcaster” that “blames ‘terrorist threats’ to justify the clampdown on Uyghurs in region”, as the Financial Times clearly put it.
Its final episode, The War in the Shadows: Challenges of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang, was aired on April 2. The others date back to June 2020 in the case of Tianshan Still Standing: Memories of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang, and December 2019 in the case of The Black Hand — ETIM and Terrorism in Xinjiang and Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang. Of course, the series has been served with its side dish of official responses to possible criticism via the CCP’s Global Times, and guess who is “state broadcaster” who produced it: obviously, the same CGTN that created “Laurène Beaumond.”
The CCP also tried to enroll real journalists in its propaganda army. And it often succeeds, as two recent cases demonstrate.
The first one is the news web portal, in French, Palestine Solidarité (“Solidarity with Palestine”), which reprinted the article by “Laurène Beaumond” as well as the CGTN’s self-defense of April 1 from a French leftist web site, Le Grand Soir. In spite of an entire section dedicated to religion, mainly featuring Islam, Palestine Solidarité shows no solidarity for the Muslims (Uyghurs and other Turkic people) persecuted by the CCP (held dear by Le Grand Soir) in Xinjiang, which its non-Han inhabitants call East Turkestan.
The second is Italy’s il Giornale hosting a propaganda article on The War in the Shadows. In fact, il Giornale hosts, probably not for free, a whole section by Cinitalia, the official bilingual media outlet owned by state China Media Group (中央广播电视总台), of which CCP’s CGTN is a division. One may only imagine the disappointment of il Giornale’s average readers, considering that il Giornale is the bestselling daily conservative newspaper in Italy.
Pakistan enters the scene
While the “Beaumond scandal” blasted in France, Katherine George, a self-described tourist and blogger, twitted enthusiastic photos of her trip to Pakistan, commenting that women there have no problems at all, while in reality rapes and violence against religious minorities’ women are unfortunately the daily bread of that country. Now, Katherine George is a Polish employee of a travel agency in Islamabad with a passion for Gwadar Pro, the app of Gwadar city in Baluchistan (Pakistan’s largest province) which is strategic for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the infrastructure projects under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013. Notably, Gwadar Pro is a great fan of Beijing’s supposedly “victory on poverty” and the anti-COVID Chinese vaccines that will supposedly benefit the citizens of Pakistan. Or at least, this is what we may read in a detailed article published by the weekly media journal of Migros, a commercial company in Italian-speaking Switzerland. In fact, Katherine George’s account was similarly suspended for violating Twitter rules.
While Defence.pk, the web site managed by the Pakistan army relaunched the famous “Laurène Beaumond” happy report on XUAR, Pakistan’s media sympathy for CCP China seem to grow in intensity every day. Take The Nation, the English-language daily newspaper based in Lahore. It recently published a piece to claim that religious freedom for Muslims in XUAR is granted by Beijing, “despite the sinister western narrative of tarnishing the image of China against Islam and Muslims.”
Pakistan, which harshly persecutes its own religious minorities, seems to loom large in the list of Muslim countries that are voluntarily deaf and blind to the genocide of Uyghur Muslims.