Letters: Beijing dictating to CBC

Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - Page 8

On Tuesday, Canadian Broad-casting Corp (CBC) television was scheduled to show a documentary entitled Beyond the Red Wall: The Persecution of Falun Gong ("Canadian TV pulls Falun Gong program hours before airtime," Nov. 10, page 7).

David Kilgour, co-author of the comprehensive report which sets out the evidence of this "new form of evil on the planet," is interviewed in the film. Also featured are Zhang Kunlun, a McGill University professor and Canadian citizen who, on a visit to China, was thrown into a labor camp and tortured for three years because of his Falun Gong beliefs. Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler is also described as "speaking passionately" about the persecution of Falun Gong.

I am also interviewed in this film on the subject of the Chinese "judicial system" -- or lack thereof -- my call for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics and the collaboration of the governments of former Canadian prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin with the perpetrators of these atrocities.

CBC had purchased this documentary from its producer, Peter Rowe, last March. Subsequently, it required Rowe to edit the film, primarily to delete certain charges against the Chinese government and to allow more extensive comment on Falun Gong by Chinese diplomatic officials. Rowe complied and CBC management gave final approval to the edited version last spring. For weeks, CBC had been promoting the film. Hours before it was to air, CBC pulled the film and replaced it with a re-run whitewash of Pakistan's dictator. Spokesmen for CBC lied about the reasons for the recall to a series of inquirers.

One story was that there were "contractual issues." Not with the producer, there weren't.

All contract issues between him and CBC had been finalized long ago. If there is a contractual issue, it consists solely of the fact that CBC has the Canadian contract for televising Bloody Harvest Olympics in Beijing next year. There is little doubt that Beijing threatened our national broadcaster with loss of this contract in the event that CBC were to allow Canadian audiences to view Beyond the Red Wall.

A second version was that the crisis in Pakistan pre-empted Peter Rowe's film and that Pakistan was of immediate topical interest. That lie is particularly transparent. The crisis in Pakistan was almost a week old. Urgent up to the minute coverage could have been injected at any time.

The truth is that Chinese diplomatic officials had contacted CBC and had employed at least one long-known Chinese Communist Party agent to orchestrate a campaign against showing the film, which they denounced as "all lies." How they could know this is unclear since no one has yet seen the film. CBC itself has acknowl-edged the intervention by China, but has said only that it decided to ask for further editing.

Human-rights advocates the world over lament the Beijing government's consistent suppression of accurate news reports in China. Now it is apparent that Beijing has the power to approve or disapprove what is broadcast by news services in democratic countries. CBC is apparently quite comfortable with the idea that what Canadians are allowed to see or hear should be determined by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. Clive Ansley ,Courtenay, Canada