The BBC’s top journalist in China, Carrie Gracie, has left her position following a gender pay row and accused the corporation of having a “secretive and illegal pay culture”.

Gracie, who was the British public broadcaster’s China editor, slammed the BBC over its pay practices in a 1,400-word letter on her personal website. She said that the BBC was “not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability”. Gracie said that the dispute has been raging since last summer, when she discovered that two similarly positioned, male, international editors – thought to be U.S editor Jon Sopel and Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen – were paid more than her and a female colleague.


“For BBC women this is not just a matter of one year’s salary or two. Taking into account disadvantageous contracts and pension entitlements, it is a gulf that will last a lifetime. Many of the women affected are not highly paid ‘stars’ but hard-working producers on modest salaries. Often women from ethnic minorities suffer wider pay gaps than the rest.


“This is not the gender pay gap that the BBC admits to. It is not men earning more because they do more of the jobs which pay better. It is men earning more in the same jobs or jobs of equal value. It is pay discrimination and it is illegal,” she said.


It comes after a gender pay report, released in October 2017, found that men working for the BBC earn an average of 9.3% more than women. While BBC Director General Tony Hall has pledged to close this gap by 2020, Gracie added that many managers still deny there is a problem and that “this bunker mentality is likely to end in a disastrous legal defeat for the BBC and an exodus of female talent at every level”.


Mandarin-speaker Gracie added: “The rise of China is one of the biggest stories of our time and one of the hardest to tell. I cannot do it justice while battling my bosses and a byzantine complaints process. Last week I left my role as China Editor and will now return to my former post in the TV newsroom where I expect to be paid equally.”


A BBC spokesman said: “Fairness in pay is vital. A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average.


“Alongside that, we have already conducted an independent judge-led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed ‘no systemic discrimination against women’. A separate report for on-air staff will be published in the not too distant future.”