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09 Jan 2020

UK watchdog accepts new complaint against China’s CGTN TV station


UK TV regulator Ofcom has just told Safeguard Defenders that it has accepted a new fairness and privacy complaint against China’s Party-state broadcaster CGTN which "relates to an alleged forced confession", without confirming the source of the complaint.

The timing however indicates it is likely the complaint from Simon Cheng, a former British consulate employee in Hong Kong against CGTN for airing lies, violating his privacy and reporting unproven allegations as facts.

It would be the third complaint that Ofcom has accepted in the past year against CGTN, all related to the broadcast of forced confessions.

You can read Mr. Cheng’s complaint here [PDF].

Mr. Cheng was abducted by Chinese state agents at a Hong Kong station controversially under mainland China’s control last summer.

He was held for two weeks mostly in incommunicado detention in China, physically tortured, shackled and hung in stress positions, beaten and interrogated for hours before he was released and told he would be kidnapped again if he went public with what had happened. 

Mr. Cheng stayed silent for several months before speaking to media about what had happened. Within days CGTN aired the offensive 'news' braodcast.

CGTN's report simply reported he was convicted of prostitution -- falsely and without any evidence -- and aired his confession without any of the essential background that it was forced and extracted through threats and torture.

As Ofcom confirmed it will investigate a new complaint, Mr. Cheng posted a message on his Facebook page declaring he was cutting ties with his family to protect them against China's threats they would harm them if he spoke out.



The other two Ofcom investigations refer to multiple broadcasts of Swedish publisher Gui Minhai and British corporate investigator Peter Humphrey. A decision on these two complaints is expected soon. Gui's complaint was filed by his daughter Angela since Mr. Gui remains disappeared in China. Ofcom is also investigating CGTN for biased reporting of the Hong Kong protests.


Export of Chinese propaganda


CCTV and its international arms, CGTN and CCTV-4 (Chinese language) are all Party-controlled channels and the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly using these to export its lies and propaganda.

Democratic countries have mechanisms in place, such as Ofcom, to prevent this from happening. It is crucial that we continue to launch complaints when lies are aired in our countries.

To this end, Safeguard Defenders has launched a number of other complaints against CGTN and CCTV-4 in UK, Canada and US.  They are:

  • An application with Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to re-appraise the licenses of CGTN and CCTV-4 because of systematic violations relating to forced confessions
  • A complaint to the US media regulator Federal Communications Commission outlining 50 violations by CGTN and CCTV-4 for broadcasting lies and attempts to influence US public opinion and political decision-making.


  • A complaint to Ofcom for a CGTN documentary on Xinjiang for misleading viewers, derogatory treatment of individuals and failure to show due impartiality and due accuracy

Safeguard Defenders is also planning to assist Mr. Humphrey on a further complaint to Ofcom concerning a CGTN 30-minute chat show, Headline Buster - Unwrapping China's Christmas card mystery. The program concerns a story about a British toddler discovering a handwritten note in a Xmas card  from a foriegn inmate at a prison in Shanghai who wrote he was forced to work against his will. The complaint will reference CGTN's lies, distortions and defamation of Mr. Humphrey.


For more information about these forced TV confessions as a phenomenon since the rise of Xi Jinping, see our groundbreaking report Scripted and Staged, or read our book on the subject, Trial By Media, available on Amazon worldwide.