Ethics complaint filed to WHO on 'goodwill ambassador'

[03 March 2020] Safeguard Defenders assisted former journalist Peter Humphrey with filing an ethics complaint on February 26 with the World Health Organization (WHO) over the continued appointment of a journalist complicit in rights abuse in China as one of its goodwill ambassadors.

British-born, former Beijing and now Hong Kong resident, James Chau (twitter account) was a reporter for several forced televised confessions of detainees before trial and without legal counsel broadcast on China's state broadcast China Central Television (CCTV), including a British victim. The broadcasts clearly broke domestic and international laws including the right to a fair trail

James Chau with WHO Director-General
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus .
(Credit: Mr. Chau's Twitter) 

Our complaint follows growing criticism of the WHO and its Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for being overly deferential to China in how it has dealt with the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus -- excessively praising the country while ignoring mounting evidence of mismanagement and cover ups. Dr. Tedros even went so far to as to commend "China's system," straying far outside his mandate. In Hong Kong, a new poll shows trust in statistics from the WHO is now almost as low as trust in China's official statistics. Xi Jinping's wife is also a goodwill ambassador, and there was considerable attention when the WHO appointed Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador back in 2017, a decision they had to reverse due to intense criticism.  

Our complaint focuses on Mr. Chau's previous work for CCTV's English-language flagship program China24 on China Global Television Network (CGTN). His complicity in the airing of forced confessions helped Chinese police and the State to reduce any chance of a fair trail for victims. In perhaps the most egregious case, Mr. Chau worked on a 2013 broadcast of a confession by British former journalist and corporate investigator Peter Humphrey. China24 mistranslated Mr. Humphrey's spoken Chinese by adding the word "illegal" to the English -- thus amounting to a distortion of the truth. Mr. Humphrey was drugged, cuffed, locked into a chair and cage at the time.  This broadcast and other confessions Mr. Chau worked on, contained direct lies in addition to being clear violations of human rights.

In 2014, for example, Mr. Chau worked on a second forced confession broadcast featuring Mr. Humphrey and his American wife. Neither had yet been tried in a court of law.

Mr Humphrey has reached out to Mr Chau in private, hoping to understand how his forced confession was made and broadcast with the promise to keep the conversation private. Mr. Chau never responded. 

Safeguard Defenders, and its founder Peter Dahlin, who is also a victim of China's forced TV confessions, also tried to contact Mr. Chau in a private capacity with no response. New York Times reporter Paul Mozur also got no response when he reached out to Mr. Chau.

You can download our complaint here: 


Mr. Chau now hosts The China Current, a program on China funded by the China-United States Exchange Foundation, a Hong Kong-based non-profit with close ties to Beijing .He regularly posts photos of himself with celebrities, especially women and luxury products to his social media accounts.

Safeguard Defenders first reached out to the WHO through multiple channels over the problematic nature of Mr. Chau's appointment on 15 March 2019, and repeatedly sought information on the process for filing complaints. To date, we have received not a single response from the WHO.

The organization has also faced criticism for its lack of transparency. This, together with its appointment of human rights violators as goodwill ambassadors, speaks poorly for the UN system and as a body whose mission is to promote human rights, good governance and human health and dignity.

The complaint was filed at the WHO's offices in Geneva.


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