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‘Forced confession’ victims urge ban of Chinese TV channels

April 12, 2021

Thirteen people who describe themselves as “victims of forced confessions broadcast on Chinese television” have urged European satellite operator Eutelsat to reconsider carrying Chinese channels CGTN and CCTV4.

In a letter published by human rights watchdog Safeguard Defenders, they detailed a list of violations they say China is guilty of using to extort confessions from them and “refuse the right to a fair trial”.

“We are asking you… to determine whether television providers in democratic societies ought to continue to be morally complicit in the broadcast of information that is intentionally twisted and obtained through torture,” the group said.

“We are only a dozen victims able to speak out…. Many other victims are in prison. A few have been executed.

“The victims have no way of demanding reparations. The only way to stop this is for television regulators to investigate and take measures,” the group added.

The letter notes that Australian public broadcaster SBS stopped using content from Chinese state-run television in March pending a review of human rights concerns.

The UK also fined CGTN for partiality and violation of privacy and removed it from the airwaves, a ban that pushed the channel to set up shop in France.

French audiovisual regulator CSA determined in March that CGTN met the technical criteria necessary for broadcasting, but just this week Safeguard Defenders submitted two complaints against the channel.

One cited an allegedly coerced interview with a Uyghur child and the other was a defamation complaint from German researcher Adrian Zenz, whose reports on the treatment of Uyghurs in China’s western Xinjiang region have drawn rebukes from Beijing.

Eutelsat responded to the letter on Monday that it could only suspend a channel if told to do so by a competent authority.

“In the case of non-European channels, the responsibility for controlling their content rests with the regulator of the country where the uplink is located or upon which the utilised satellite capacity depends,” Eutelsat said in a statement.

For CGTN broadcasting in Europe, this responsibility falls to France’s CSA “which also has the ability to take legal action”, Eutelsat said, adding it would “immediately comply” with any decision by the CSA or French courts.

The letter’s signatories include Chinese human rights lawyers Bao Longjun and Jiang Tianyong, who have been targeted by authorities in China.

Another signatory was Simon Cheng, a former British consulate staffer in Hong Kong who was granted asylum in the UK after allegedly being tortured by Chinese secret police.

Also giving support was Swedish activist and Safeguard Defenders co-founder Peter Dahlin, who spent three weeks in a Chinese jail in 2016 before being expelled from the country as a national security threat.


Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.