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08 May 2019

UK regulator launch investigation of Chinese State-TV

UPDATE: 2019-05-09 (17:30 GMT+1)

One day after Ofcom launched an investigation of Chinese State TV broadcaster CGTN, after a complaint filed by victim Peter Humphrey and Safeguard Defenders - it has now launched a second investigation of the same broadcaster based on a complaint filed by Angela Gui and Safeguard Defenders concerning two Forced TV Confessions by imprisoned/disappeared Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai.

Since Gui's last TV confession in 2018, China has continued to extract and air such televised "confessions", domestically as well as internationally. Gui's last confession was also broadcast on CGTN Francais in French, and two Canadians, a Chinese journalists (and his family members), a uighur poet and even a judge on China's supreme court - who is still missing - has been paraded on TV 'confessing' to crimes they have not been convicted, or even arrest, for. The use of these confessions have slowed since its height 2016, but remains a continuously used tool by the Chinese state.  


BREAKING NEWS. The broadcasting regulator of the United Kingdom,  the Office of Communications (Ofcom), has launched a formal investigation into forced confessions broadcast by Chinese state TV giant CGTN - China Global Television Network. A similar investigation, based on a very similar complaint against Iran's Press TV, previously led to Press TV losing its license and being given a large fine. This investigation has been launched following a "privacy and fairness complaint" (view complaint here) filed by British former journalist and fraud investigator Peter Humphrey on November 23, 2018. Mr. Humphrey is one of many victims of China's recurrent use of Forced TV Confessions and was forced to record a "confession" under duress, long before indictment, trial or conviction of any crime in order to deny him justice and to prejudice his case. That "confession" was then aired in China by state broadcaster CCTV on multiple channels, and in English around the world on CCTV’s overseas arm CGTN.

Mr. Humphrey was later paraded on Chinese television in another such forced and false "confession", which was again aired both in Chinese in China and in English worldwide, including in the UK. The violation is considered so grave that Ofcom has exempted Mr. Humphrey's complaint from a normal time limit of having to file a complaint within 20 days after an accused broadcast, given the fact that at the time, he was incarcerated and not allowed to communicate with the outside world and that after his release he has battled cancer, PTSD and other illnesses caused by deliberate rough handling in captivity.


A similar complaint, concerning Swedish citizen and Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, who remains detained at an unknown location, was filed by his UK-based daughter Angela Gui, on December 30, 2018. A decision on whether to launch a second investigation into CGTN based on Ms. Gui’s complaint remains pending. However, considering that her father’s multiple forced "confessions" are more recent, it is unlikely that Ofcom can shirk launching a formal investigation into the Gui case as well. Should that investigation be launched, the full complaint filed with Ofcom will be made public.

Ofcom's ability to revoke a broadcaster's UK license hangs heavy over CGTN, as London has been selected as the hub for a massive new CGTN European division. Their brand new Chiswick Park facility in London has recently opened and is undergoing rapid expansion. As China’s ties with the United States, Canada and Australia deteriorate sharply, and given the EU's importance in China’s trade equation, especially as its economic growth continues to slow down, Beijing’s push for expanded influence across Europe and in the EU, in which the massive expansion of CGTN and Chinese state media play a key role, is now at risk.

Around June 10, China, if it respects its own draconian rules and laws,  will have to move two Canadian prisoners, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, from “Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location” (RSDL) and place them under formal judicial arrest. Both have been “disappeared” into RSDL in response to a political and diplomatic crisis with Canada. If they are moved to judicial arrest, the Communist authorities will no doubt launch a propaganda campaign to justify their actions. With CGTN’s abuses now under an official probe in the UK and under the international spotlight, the parading of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig in forced TV “confessions” in front of an international audience may have been curtailed.

Separately, two other complaints, filed by Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing Kee and Peter Dahlin of Safeguard Defenders, both against CCTV-4, not CGTN, for broadcasting Chinese language "confessions", has not led to any investigations, as CCTV, unlike CGTN, does not maintain a license in the UK and only broadcasts over IP-TV. This is despite the fact that all of CCTV’s channels, regardless of their channel number, are part of one single organisation directed by the Chinese Communist Party.


Of note is that, upon further examination, CGTN included in one of its broadcasts a wrongful translation (into English) of Peter Humphrey's spoken Chinese words, adding words to the translation that were never said, changing the meaning significantly, in a clear distortion of fact. This exposes CGTN to supervision by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which, unlike Ofcom, operates with a narrower mandate but with the scope to take action against "intentional falsification of the news". A complaint to the FCC, based on eight different aired "confessions" by CGTN in the United States is now under preparation. 


To learn more about China's use of Forced TV Confessions, and the recent reorganisation of Chinese state/party media, and its expansion worldwide, especially in Europe, see Safeguard Defenders recent book Trial By Media, available on Amazon worldwide and other select online stores.