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18 Dec 2018

How Chinese TV helps police film forced confessions

Following continued research into the phenomenom of Forced TV Confessions (FCs), and in particular research undertaken in collaboration with Swedish journalist and social commentator Kurdo Baksi on the true extent of how these are broadcast outside China, through its various international Channels, this brief post has been drawn up to highlight the key points, and offer an updated version of the earlier database on Forced TV Confessions. New revelations range from which international channels are used, or not used, to broadcast, either directly or repackaged, such FCs internationally, to the companies that airs them abroad – from the United Kingdom to Canada to Sweden and beyond. More data has also come forth about Dong Qian, the former CCTV journalists, expanded role in working with police to make these confessions.  


Mass broadcasts of Forced TV Confessions by CCTV/CGTN internationally

At the time of writing, since Xi Jinping came to power, Chinese media, almost always CCTV, have aired 48 TV confessions on primarily national TV. The hidden number of confessions aired but not identified, and confessions aired by regional or provincial TV stations, is likely large. Those 48 confessions videos have targeted at least 106 victims, many of them journalists, lawyers, other rights defenders or those with a strong social media presence. Now, new research has uncovered at least 29 of those videos aired internationally, often in stark violation and in clear breach of target countries’ TV broadcast regulations. CCTV4, part of CCTV, not the international arm CGTN, airs around the world in Chinese, targeting the Chinese diaspora worldwide, with at least 121 countries receiving its broadcasts. CCTV4, for its broadcasts, hold its own CCTV license in those jurisdictions where a license is required, separate from any CGTN license. It has aired at least 27 TV confessions, and airs such confessions with foreigners in those foreigners’ home countries, from Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the United States. CGTN – China Global Television Network, has, in additional to CCTV4’s broadcasts, has also broadcast, in reworked segments in English language, eight (8) or more of these confessions. Other CGTN, like CGTN Francais – China’s French-language global channel, has also broadcast several such confessions. No research has been made into CGTN’s Arabic or Russian language broadcasts yet.

For more details, download and view the newly updated database (bilingual) here: Forced TV Confessions Database EN, CN 2018-12-18


Dong Qian: exposed as a key journalist in the attack on 709 lawyers

At the height of use of FCs, often tied to political campaign or crackdowns, against the 709 lawyers, Dong Qian, a high profile journalist with CCTV, emerged as a central figure. Over a period of a year CCTV ran FCs with some 20 different victims, some of whom were paraded on TV multiple times, and Dong Qian has now been named by four of those victims, as well as by Wu Gan, another 709 activist police and CCTV together tried to force to make such a TV recording but refused. As Dr. Liu Sixin exposes in his testimony in the new book on CCTV’s role in these Forced Televised Confessions, Dong Qian is seen not merely being one of several journalists brought in to extract, record, and produce such FCs, but taking an active coordinating role. Several other 709 activists who have been willing to provide background information have not felt secure enough to expose certain details, such as the specific journalists involved, and yet others have been too fearful to speak at all. Nonetheless, Dong Qian’s role in a slew of these, and her key role, often among several other journalists, have been exposed. Dong Qian left CCTV on murky grounds, and for now only rumors exist on how she exited CCTV. More details on the true scope of CCTV’s collaboration with the Police, and on how Chinese state/party media is now expanding its broadcast and production centers around the world, and how it relates to Xi Jinping’s going out policy, is available in Safeguard Defenders new book, edited by Peter Dahlin, Trial By Media – China’s New Show Trials and the global expansion of Chinese state media.    

Foreigners targeted through Forced Televised Confessions

Much has been made of the potential forced TV confessions from current Canadian detainees Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. However, CCTV has not only aired such TV confessions of Canadians before, but aired those confessions in Canada (Chen Zhiheng, Chen Zhiyu). Likewise, confessions by two Swedes, Safeguard Defenders’ Peter Dahlin and Hong Kong-based book publisher Gui Minhai have likewise been aired in Sweden. The list concerning other foreign victims, and broadcasts of their confessions in their home countries, goes on. So far nine (9) such Forced TV Confessions with foreign victims have been broadcast internationally by CCTV4 – in Chinese, while China Global Television Network (CGTN) have also produced and aired tailored English-language broadcasts, so far eight (8) such Forced TV Confessions have been identified as broadcast on CGTN (English) internationally. In addition, a cursory look shows that some of those have also been aired in French language productions on CGTN Francais. More research could well find more broadcasts on CGTN’s Spanish, Arabic, and Russian channels. Should Michael Kovrig or Michael Spavor appear on CCTV in a Forced TV Confession, chances are those confessions will likely be broadcast in Canada and around the world too.    

Storm brewing over CCTV/CGTN broadcasts in several countries

CCTV4 and CGTN are made available in a great many countries, and is accessible in a variety of forms, from terrestrial broadcasts to Satellite and Cable. The United Kingdom holds one of the strongest TV broadcasting regulatory bodies (Ofcom), and is currently assessing a complaint against CCTV and CGTN made by UK victim Peter Humphrey is collaboration with Safeguard Defenders. The complaint was filed in tandem with a much-covered press conference held in London by Peter Humphrey and Peter Dahlin on November 23 this year. Both precedent and the official Broadcasting code makes it clear CCTV/CGTN stands a very real risk of losing their license to broadcast there for these systematic and serious breaches of the Broadcasting code. Several additional complaints have been completed and stand ready to be filed. In Sweden, due to CCTV4s broadcast of those Swedish citizen’s Forced TV Confessions, and due to the work by Swedish journalist Kurdo Baksi, there is a growing discussion of how the media company Telia offers both CCTV4 and CGTN in Sweden, referred to as ‘blood money’ by Sweden’s Peter Dahlin in an open letter in Sweden’s largest newspaper most recently. In Canada, CCTV4 is being made available through cable transmissions, including by Shaw Communications and Rogers Cable, the latter one of Canada’s largest such provider, and which also offers GCTN. CGTN Francais is likewise available through Bell Fibe TV. In the United States terrestrial, Cable and several Satellite providers offer CCTV4 and CGTN, from DirecTV to Dish Network to Comcast, despite repeat broadcast of Forced TV Confessions of American citizens.