Further revelations about CCTV’s use of Forced TV 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.


CCTV need be tasked with following existing rules for broadcasting

On Friday, November 23, 2018, Safeguard Defenders organized a press conference in London for a group of 45 invited media, diplomatic and NGO representatives, outlining a complaint filed against China Central Television (CCTV) and its international arm China Global Television (CGTN) with the United Kingdom’s broadcast regulator.

The press conference was hosted by Safeguard Defenders’ Peter Dahlin, and British citizen, former Reuters journalist Peter Humphrey. Alongside presentation of the official complaint, filed with Ofcom at 11:25 that morning, it also constituted the launch event for Safeguard Defenders new book, edited by Peter Dahlin.


Peter Dahlin explains the reality of ‘RSDL’ – residential surveillance at a designated location – and Safeguard Defenders prior book on the subject, “The People’s Republic of the Disappeared”.

The complaint is based on the fact that CCTV collaborated with Chinese police in extracting, recording, producing, and later airing, two confessions by Peter Humphrey, made long before his trial, and against his stated objections. By broadcasting both TV “confessions”, CCTV not only collaborated in denying Mr. Humphrey the right to a fair trial, but by broadcasting it on its international English language channel, including in the UK, it violated the UK’s Broadcasting Code. The same behavior by a state broadcaster has earlier been penalized, in accordance with the Broadcasting code, leading to the revocation of the license for that state broadcaster, Press TV, to broadcast, in the UK.


The complaint, exhaustive in nature, highlights how some twenty aspects of the Broadcasting code has been violated in broadcasting these “confessions”, and the complaint comes as CCTV/CGTN is about to open a major production center in London. The new center is the centerpiece in the European dimension in Xi Jinping’s signature “going out” policy, and is one of several developments, working in tandem, in expanding Chinese party/state influence in Europe. Should the complaint place CCTV/CGTN under review, it will have no choice but to cease broadcasting such “confessions”, or risk losing athe bility to expand its European operations for possibly years to come. Local media in Chiswick Park, the upscale area of London where the new CGTN center is to open, have reported that CIC – China Investment Corporation – paid 780 million pound for purchasing the Chiswick office Park complex.


Mr. Humphrey describes the reality that viewers never got to see.




Mr. Dahlin presents ‘Trial By Media” which exposes the extent of CCTV collaboration, and the systematic nature of these “forced TV confessions”


Alongside presentation of the complaint, and on the role of Ofcom in the UK, in supervising and acting as guarantor that the Broadcasting code in enforced in the UK, the press conference also included Peter Dahlin presenting the new book “Trial By Media”, now available worldwide on Amazon as both paperback and in kindle edition. The book explores the role of CCTV and its journalists in not merely broadcasting, but helping extract, record and produce these “forced TV confessions” systematically since the rise of Xi Jinping, and presents eight victims’ testimonies, written as first person accounts. The book furthermore analyses the “going out” policy of Xi Jinping as it relates to Chinese state media, the massive reorganization of its media empire announced at the national congress in March 2018, and other concurrent developments working in tandem – all with the aim of expanding Chinese influencing operations. It notes, as has been noted in Australia before, how ‘partnerships’ are being used in a massively increased scale the last few years to co-opt or neutralize independent Chinese language media around Europe, and how this, alongside massive investment plans for CCTV’s global operations, is being guided by the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.


Drugged and placed inside a metal cage, cuffed to a chair, inside a detention center room, the police held the script in front of Mr. Humphrey. CCTV journalists filmed as he slurred his answers.


The book is a wakeup call both to the true nature of CCTV as a state/party broadcaster, but also its rapidly expanding reach across the world, including in Europe.



The press conference was completed with a presentation by Peter Dahlin of how Ofcom stands a chance to affect positive change in the behavior of China’s state broadcaster, and that the timing for such, before several soon to be taken steps, in expanding its reach, will maximize its possible result. By placing CCTV under greater scrutiny, a political decision will be forced upon the Chinese Communist Party as to whether CCTV shall continue to collaborate in carrying out gross human rights violations in making and airing such confessions internationally, or if it should change, for the sake of not derailing a very costly, very important, expansion plan directed by Xi Jinping himself.


First response from the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang

We call upon Ofcom to perform its regulatory role in a fair manner, where China’s state broadcaster must be held to the same standards as Iranian media, or for that matter, any and all media that seeks to operate in the UK. Ofcom, a non-political body, has been given the opportunity to affect positive change merely in applying its Broadcasting rules without undue political considerations.


Mr. Humphrey and Mr. Dahlin hand over the complaint to Ofcom on Friday morning.

Chinese broadcasters and media, even those that are a direct arm of the CCP, must be allowed to partake in the broader conversation, in the UK and beyond, and censorship cannot, nor should never, be fought with censorship. Chinese media should be encouraged to fight for viewers and readers, and be allowed to share its perspective on world developments, but such can only be offered with fair, and consistent, application of rules. The UK’s role in the world as a country governed by the rule of law must be protected, and for that, the rules for broadcasters must be applied equally to all. This action by Ofcom will very likely decide whether there will be future British victims of this behavior in China.

Press Conference, London, on CCTV and their international operations

On November 23, a press conference will be held in London, the United Kingdom, co-hosted by Peter Humphrey and Peter Dahlin, related to operations by China’s state media broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), and its international arm China Global Television (CGTN).

To avoid disturbances, the event is closed, and attendance is by RSVP only.  A small number of seats remain for interested parties. Contact Info -at- safeguarddefenders -dot- com for more information.


The press conference will focus on CCTV’s operations in the UK, and its multiple breaches of the UK Broadcasting code, especially in the broadcast of the two forced TV confessions by the British citizen and former journalist Peter Humphrey. Broadcast of such a “confession” in the UK by Iranian state media previously led to the broadcaster, Press TV, being stripped of its broadcasting license in the United Kingdom.

Peter Dahlin, director of Safeguard Defenders, the parent organization of RSDLmonitor.com, will likewise present information on the systematic nature of these forced TV confessions, and reveal further information on the active collaboration with police by CCTV and individual journalists. The press conference coincides with the release by Safeguard Defenders of a new book, Trial By Media: China’s new show trials, and the global expansion of Chinese media, focused on Forced TV Confessions, but also the role played by CCTV and state/party media in China’s mounting influencing operations globally.




CCTV complaint to OFCOM

Below is the official, redacted, version of the full complaint filed against CCTV for its operations in the United Kingdom, with the Office of Communications (Ofcom) on November 23, 2018.


Ofcom is tasked by law to regulate media broadcasters in the United Kingdom, and to implement the Broadcasting code. CCTV and CGTN both holds broadcast licenses in the UK. The broadcast of a forced TV confession by Iranian State TV broadcaster in the UK led to the TV broadcaster being investigated and found guilty, and subsequently, had their license to broadcast in the UK revoked.

Download complaint as PDF here: OfCom Fairness and Privacy Complaint 2018-11-23 Redacted


Office of Communications (Ofcom)


Fairness and Privacy complaint

Complaint against

China Central Television (CCTV) /

China Global Television Network (CGTN)




This complaint contains 8 chapters.



Complaint filed by the victim, UK citizen Peter Humphrey, with support from NGO Safeguard Defenders.


Filed at Ofcom office. Fairness and Privacy Complaints Content Standards, Licensing and Enforcement, Riverside House 2a, Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 9HA.





“They drugged me, locked me to a tiger chair, and placed me and the chair inside a small metal cage. China Central Television (CCTV) journalists then aimed their cameras at me and recorded me reading out the answers already prepared for me by the police. No questions were asked.”British citizen and former journalist Peter Humphrey on his forced TV confession in China.


On August 27, 2013, UK citizen, China resident, and former Reuters journalist Peter Humphrey was seen on China’s state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) “admitting” to crimes he and his wife had been charged with, but not convicted of. This “confession” on TV happened long before his actual trial. Peter Humphrey had refused to make such a confession, but was in return maltreated and even denied cancer care, making him fear for his life. CCTV journalists cooperated with police to extract, record, make post-production and then broadcast his confession. CCTV then released it worldwide through its international arm, China Global Television (CGTN), including on their English-language channel, also aired in the UK. Later on, a second confession was forced out of him. On both occasions, his American wife was similarly filmed, although only broadcast on the second instance.


A Canadian-Iranian journalist suffered the same fate a few years earlier in Iran, when Iran’s state media collaborated with police to record and then broadcast his “confession” on their Press TV in the United Kingdom. The victim, Maziar Bahari, filed a complaint to Ofcom, who in its investigation found Press TV responsible for committing gross violations of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, and subsequently revoked their license. In China, this use of forced TV confessions, always before trial, has become systematic since the reign of Xi Jinping began in late 2012; and torture, maltreatment and even forced drugging are common components in forcing victims to confess, as numerous testimonies from victims have shown.



Chapter 1 Background


I, Peter William Humphrey, a citizen of the United Kingdom, here submit a complaint to Ofcom and request Ofcom to restrict the operations of China Central Television (CCTV) and its international arm China Global Television (CGTN), on account of their multiple violations of the Broadcasting code, and having committed gross human rights violations, in broadcasting the forced TV confession of me in the United Kingdom. This matter is in the public interest, and, upon submission, this complaint will be released to the public and to relevant organisations.


CCTV/CGTN is the broadcast arm of the Chinese state and, specifically, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As such, CCTV/CGTN is not a broadcaster in the commonly held sense, but a television broadcast arm of the CCP’s propaganda department.


With this complaint I call on Ofcom to perform its duty to curb the activities of CCTV/CGTN in the United Kingdom, as it operates in violation of the Broadcasting code, and that it shall be denied the license to broadcast in the United Kingdom as a result of the multiple, severe, violations of the Ofcom rules, and that such denial shall be in place until it can be shown CCTV/CGTN can and will operate according to the established rules.


CCTV/CGTN has colluded with the Chinese police, known as the Public Security Bureau (PSB), which is controlled by the Chinese state and CCP, in forcing me and my wife Yingzeng Yu (Ying) to be paraded on CCTV and CGTN broadcasts as prisoners, and to make it appear, falsely, that we were making confessions to crimes we had not been convicted of. These were in reality forced and falsified “confessions” for the purpose of prejudicing public opinion and prejudicing trial proceedings before we had faced any indictment, prosecution or fair and open trial as required by both China’s law and constitution.


The crimes committed against me and my wife have also been committed in vast numbers of similar cases committed by the PSB and CCTV/CGTN, namely against hundreds of individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since the time of my own forced TV confession, and in some instances committed against individuals who have been kidnapped outside the PRC and brought into China and paraded on TV to make such forced and falsified televised confessions, similarly aired on CCTV. There have also been many non-Chinese victims of this practice, including other Europeans and Americans.


It has been widely reported that in December 2018 CCTV/CGTN will open a massive European base in the Chiswick district of London where it will conduct its broadcasting towards UK audiences as well as elsewhere in the English-speaking world and in Europe. This is the production center for its new European bureau, its largest ever foreign bureau, with plans to base more than 300 staff there.


The forced parading of me and my wife on CCTV/CGTN broadcasts has been widely publicised at the time by international media including mainstream UK media.


CCTV/CGTN reporters and camera crew twice assisted the Shanghai police in conducting these scripted and staged bogus confession “interviews”.


In the first instance (filmed on Monday August 26, 2013), CCTV was represented by one male cameraman and one female interviewer who withheld their names. In the first instance, I was drugged in my cell with a sedative half an hour beforehand, I was led out in handcuffs, and in an orange prison uniform, I was led into an interrogation cell, placed into a steel cage, and locked into an iron chair commonly referred to in China as a “tiger chair”, with a locking bar across my lap. I was surrounded by a dozen or so people wielding still- and TV cameras who pointed their lenses through the cage bars, and was filmed in this condition without my consent and against my will. I had only consented to meeting two or three print journalists, and had written a note to that effect, and had explicitly written “no cameras”. But I was a prisoner in a Chinese jail and was in no position to resist after two months in captivity in appalling conditions, poor health and immense duress tantamount to torture. The interviewer was not any of the journalists present but was instead the police’s Inspector Ding Zhidong, the very same officer of the police who had been one of two lead interrogators against me and my wife for the preceding months in captivity, with me still suffering immense duress.


In the second instance (filmed on Saturday July 12, 2014) I was not handcuffed or caged but was a captive, and was also forced to appear before journalists against my will by the police. In both instances, CCTV was present. In the second instance CCTV’s female interviewer led the questioning based on a police script in a very hostile manner.


Both fake interviews procured under conditions tantamount to torture were broadcast and rebroadcast, by both CCTV and its international arm CGTN, upon orders from the Chinese state and without my consent. Both interviews, heavily edited, cut and pasted, were unrecognisable to me when I was able to view them, only after my release one year later. In some versions of the broadcast my facial image was scrambled. In others it was not. Still photos from the filming session were also published in print and online media without my consent and fully showing my facial features alongside printed articles containing false information prepared by the police.


Neither of these instances qualify as journalism or true media activity. CCTV was working in active collusion with the police and the Chinese state.


Foreign Office records show that a senior UK consular officer met the head of the Shanghai police a few days after the first CCTV broadcast and told the Chinese side that if such an incident happened in the UK then the so-called case against me and my wife would have been thrown out for violating legal process.


CCTV/CGTN’s actions resulted in the false prejudicing of Chinese and world public opinion against me and my wife, the prejudicing of a sham trial against us held on August 8, 2014 at which we had no opportunity to orchestrate a proper defence, and caused lasting reputational damage and financial damage to the Humphrey family. The latter includes false and injurious records of the affair by due diligence databases that are used by all leading banks as an obligatory know-your-customer compliance check. These database companies have red-flagged the Humphreys alongside terrorists, money-launderers and traffickers as a result of CCTV/CGTN’s actions in collusion with the police.


In 2018, there has been a growing focus on these legal- and human rights violations after a human rights organization named Safeguard Defenders published a series of materials on the topic, first being the phenomenon of extrajudicial disappearance and detention in China, the second being the practice of forced, falsified televised confessions as represented in the book “Scripted and Staged”, to which I refer you.

Artist rendering of Peter Humphrey’s first recording

Chapter 2 On China Central Television in UK

Due to the many names and abbreviations, and many changes, a clarification is justified. China Central Television (CCTV) is the national TV broadcaster in China. Up until December 31, 2016, the English language CCTV channel for international broadcasts were first called CCTV-9, and later CCTV News. At this date, the English channel was renamed China Global Television Network (CGTN). CCTV/CTGN broadcasts in all six United Nations languages.


During the national congress in China in March 2018, it was announced that CCTV’s international channels, alongside China Radio International and China National Radio, will be merged, and will be called Voice of China. This change has not yet happened. It was also announced that control of the CGTN/Voice of China will be reorganised, and placed directly under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), rather than the State. The reorganisation is set forth in the Program for the Deepening Reform of Party and Government Organs (深化党和国家机构改革方案), which sets forth that it shall (article 36)  “guide public opinion as defined by the Chinese Communist Party”, and, (article 35) “strengthen the Party’s centralised and unified leadership of news and public opinion work, and strengthen the management of important propaganda positions”.


CGTN has since before established an Africa division, based in Nairobi, Kenya, and an Americas division, based in Washington DC, USA. The new London-based production center will have more staff than both these headquarters put together, and it is expected that the formation of a European division will come.


In the United Kingdom, CCTV/CGTN holds two licenses.

  • CCTV (DTAS100508BA/15)


  • CGTN (TLCS000575BA/2)



On September 18, 2018, it became known that the United States Department of Justice had ordered CGTN, and China’s state-controlled newswire service, Xinhua, to register under its Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), deeming them, much like RT (Russia Today) to be foreign agents operating in the United States, and  forcing their registration as such, which will require them to report on their activities, financing and relationship to their principal (the Chinese State/CCP) to the Department of Justice.


Both TV confessions were broadcast by CCTV, in China, and on CGTN, internationally.  In the UK CGTN can be watched through terrestrial broadcasts (Freeview Channel 226), Satellite broadcasts (Freesat Channel 211 and Sky Channel 509) and through streaming.

These broadcasts are then often picked up and rebroadcast by UK broadcasters.


Note: Some videos appears with the logo CNTV (China Network Television), which is an Internet TV broadcaster that compiles and offers news clips from various CCTV/CGTN channels.


Chapter 3 Justification for, and precedent of, exception to time-limit


In 2010 a complaint to Ofcom was made by Canadian citizen Maziar Bahari against the Iranian Broadcaster Press TV in the United Kingdom, for “for filming and airing an interview with him under duress”. Due to the seriousness of the complaint, the 20 day time limitation, in accordance with article 1.13 of the Procedures for the consideration and adjudication of Fairness and Privacy complaints, was waived under article 1.14.


In the end Press TV’s license was revoked, although the penalty was later changed to a fine of 100,000 Pounds. Ofcom stated that Press TV failed to get Maziar Bahari’s consent and this “contributed to the overall unfairness to Mr Bahari in the item broadcast“, and added that filming and broadcasting the interview without consent “while he was in a sensitive situation and vulnerable state was an unwarranted infringement of Mr Bahari’s privacy“. Ofcom’s decision was published on May 23, 2011[1].


The same exception, under article 1.14 is now being sought, as a UK citizen was forced into the very same situation, this time in China, and as has been shown by research, it is part of a common pattern of abuse that has also affected other EU citizens.


The two (separate) broadcasts were aired by CCTV, China Central Television, on 2013-08-27 and 2014-07-14. In the UK, CCTV broadcast under the name its international English language arm, now called CGTN – China Global Television Network. The second broadcast also included a similar involuntary filming session by CCTV and Chinese police of the UK victim’s wife (an American citizen).


Reason for delayed filing


When the broadcasts were made and aired, Peter Humphrey had no possibility to seek redress or to file any complaint, as he was held “virtually incommunicado” and “prevented from communication with the world outside my walls”. The victim could not make a complaint to Ofcom for the two years that he was kept in prison in China.


Additionally, due to long-term denial of medical care for cancer, upon Peter Humphrey’s release from prison and subsequent deportation in June 2015, he had to undergo long-term cancer investigation and treatment. Active treatment lasted until mid-2017, with continued investigation ongoing. Starting shortly before this date, Mr. Humphrey started treatment for severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which lasted for one additional year until mid-2018, with additional physical treatments for damaged joints and nerves still ongoing. The first two years of imprisonment, and the physical weakness from cancer treatment following that, and treatment against mental illness incurred as a direct result of both his detention, torture (under the definition of the Convention Against Torture) and him being forced into making these broadcasts, are the combined reasons why the filing of the complaint is carried out now, and not before.


Besides depriving Peter Humphrey of the right to a fair trial, and the police’s insistence on using a televised confession and denying him medical care for a potential life-threatening medical condition, the broadcasts themselves have had multiple, severe, negative consequences for Peter Humphrey. The re-broadcast and intense media focus by international media, in the UK and internationally, have severely damaged his reputation. It has also led to him being deprived of access to personal and business banking, and led to significant negative consequences related to his professional life, work and livelihood.


Chapter 4 The broadcasts


All five broadcasts mentioned below are attached as Appendixes V1-V5, on the USB that is provided alongside this complaint.


First “confession” video

First broadcast 07:38 (GMT+8), 2013-08-27, on CCTV 13 morning news show CCTV13 (朝闻天下 Zhao Wen Tian Xia)

Recording attached as appendix V1.


Recording attached as appendix V2.


Second “confession” video

First broadcast 07:39 (GMT+8), 2014-07-14, on CCTV 13 morning news show CCTV13 (朝闻天下 Zhao Wen Tian Xia)

Recording attached as appendix V3.


  •   The English language version of the second confession, aired by CCTV International (the name for the English channel before re-branding to CGTN), on the same date, is attached as appendix V4.



Chapter 5 Violations of the Broadcasting Code


Ofcom has a duty under section 319 of the Communications Act 2003 to set standards for the content of programmes in television and radio services. The standards objectives are set out in section 319(2) of the Act. They include that generally accepted standards are applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of offensive and harmful material (section 319(2)(f)). Ofcom’s regulatory work and the specifics of what to protect citizens against is outlined in the Broadcasting Code[2].


The two broadcasts breach numerous paragraphs of the Broadcasting code, under sections 3, 5, 7 and 8.


Section 3: Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse.


Article 3.3 Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television and radio services.


The broadcasts contain material where the defendant has been forced, through withholding of medical treatment and forced drugging, to incriminate himself before his trial. His placement inside a small metal cage, partly visible in the broadcast, and his drugged appearance, should likewise be considered a violation of this article.


Section 5: Impartiality and accuracy. 


Article 5.1: That News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.


The victim had no chance to voice his own version of allegations against him, and was forced and coerced into incriminating himself. CCTV post-production includes various allegations against the victim stated as facts, despite no trial having taken place at the time of broadcast. Those “facts” were also not available for Mr. Humphrey to hear, see or refute, but added in post-production.


Article 5.2: Significant mistakes in news should normally be acknowledged and corrected on air quickly. Corrections should be appropriately scheduled.


Despite the victim having retracted his statements, and testified to the treatment forcing him to make such a recording against his will, CCTV has not issued any retraction, clarification or any other statement regarding its broadcast.


Article 5.8: Any personal interest of a reporter or presenter, which would call into question the due impartiality of the programme, must be made clear to the audience.


The journalists from CCTV did not ask the questions, despite it being presented on TV as an interaction between Peter Humphrey and media. Instead, police in the first instance asked the questions directly and forced the victim to read answers and statements prepared for him by the police, while media simply recorded it. In the second instance, a CCTV reporter asked questions based on a police script.  In both instances, CCTV actively collaborated with the police in extracting and producing and broadcasting the confession, the true nature of which was not presented to the viewer.


Section 7: Fairness


Article 7.1: Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes.


The broadcast presented the confession as willing, and not coerced or otherwise forced. The broadcast presented the victim willingly incriminating himself. Treatment of victim by the participating media and its broadcast is both unjust and unfair.


Article 7.2: Broadcasters and programme makers should normally be fair in their dealings with potential contributors to programmes unless, exceptionally, it is justified to do otherwise.


The victim was under severe distress and duress, and had even been drugged. The victim, despite this said no, that he would not agree to any video recording with TV media, but was then forced to do so regardless and while on a drug. No consent was possible in the circumstance.


Article 7.3: Where a person is invited to make a contribution to a programme (except when the subject matter is trivial or their participation minor) they should normally, at an appropriate stage:

  • be told the nature and purpose of the programme, what the programme is about and be given a clear explanation of why they were asked to contribute and when (if known) and where it is likely to be first broadcast;
  • be told what kind of contribution they are expected to make, for example live, pre-recorded, interview, discussion, edited, unedited, etc.;
  • be informed about the areas of questioning and, wherever possible, the nature of other likely contributions;
  • be made aware of any significant changes to the programme as it develops which might reasonably affect their original consent to participate, and which might cause material unfairness;
  • be told the nature of their contractual rights and obligations and those of the programme maker and broadcaster in relation to their contribution; and
  • be given clear information, if offered an opportunity to preview the programme, about whether they will be able to effect any changes to it.


See answer to article 7.2, all of which applies.


Article 7.6: When a programme is edited, contributions should be represented fairly.


Editing of these CCTV broadcasts was deceptive to viewer. Allegations were presented as facts, and additional alleged facts were added in post-production. Also, see answers to articles 5.8 and 7.1


Article 7.6: When a programme is edited, contributions should be represented fairly.


CCTV has edited the broadcast heavily, and in a grossly unfair manner, and added accusations presented as facts in post-production.


Article 7.9: Before broadcasting a factual programme, including programmes examining past events, broadcasters should take reasonable care to satisfy themselves that:

  • material facts have not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organisation;


No such undertaking has been made by CCTV. Material presented is unfair, deceptive and does not allow victim to respond. The actual situation during which the “interview” was recorded should alert anyone, including any journalist, of the true situation in which it was recorded. (See attached artwork showing the scene of the recording.)


Article 7.11: If a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond.


No such opportunity has been provided, neither at the time of the recording of the broadcast, nor after its broadcast. Also see answer to article 7.9.


Section 8: privacy


Article 8.6: If the broadcast of a programme would infringe the privacy of a person or organisation, consent should be obtained before the relevant material is broadcast, unless the infringement of privacy is warranted.


No such consent could be given, due to the extreme duress. Victim was chained to a metal stool, inside a small cage, inside a detention cell, and was drugged prior to recording. Victim had also said no to making such a recording, and was on top of that being denied medical care for a potentially lethal illness. His wife was also detained, accused of the same crime.


Article 8.16: Broadcasters should not take or broadcast footage or audio of people caught up in emergencies, victims of accidents or those suffering a personal tragedy, even in a public place, where that results in an infringement of privacy, unless it is warranted or the people concerned have given consent.


See answer to article 8.6.


Article 8.17: People in a state of distress should not be put under pressure to take part in a programme or provide interviews, unless it is warranted.


See answer to article 8.6.


Chapter 6 Obligation of Ofcom under the Human Rights Act


Ofcom, as a public authority, is charged, under the Human Rights Act (1988) paragraph 6 (1) to act in a way compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (“It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.”) It is charged under the same paragraph, subsection 6 (b) to, within its mandate, take remedial action for what is under its purview.


CCTV is either directly responsible, or complicit in, several violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).


  • CCTV is directly responsible for depriving Peter Humphrey and Yu Yingzeng of the right to a fair trial, a right guaranteed under paragraph 6.


  • CCTV is also directly responsible for violation of article 8, which in line with the Broadcasting code, provides protections against unlawful violations of privacy.


  • In addition, CCTV is complicit, but not directly responsible, for violation of paragraph 3, which protects against all forms of torture. CCTV has been complicit in the police’s torture of Peter Humphrey, in helping extract, record, provide post-production and broadcast of his “testimony”, despite knowing full well of his maltreatment (see artist rendering attached of Mr. Humphrey’s situation during the first recorded confession, leaving little doubt for any attendees as to the situation he was in when making the recording).


Chapter 7 CCTV and Forced TV Confessions


Safeguard Defenders, the human rights organization, has released the fullest, most exhaustive, report on the use of forced TV confessions in China, Scripted and Staged.


Hardcopy and digital copy of the report is provided along with this complaint.


The research conducted for that report, and the many victim testimonials secured, have shown a systematic nature in how CCTV is used to broadcast Forced TV Confessions before trial. A database has been published by the same organization on its use since Xi Jinping became leader of China 2012/2013, available on RSDLmonitor.com.


CCTV plays two different roles. In one, more common for lower profile victims, CCTV is limited to providing post-production and broadcasting of TV recordings, produced by police. Most often victims have been kept incommunicado.


In another role, including the one in the case of Peter Humphrey, CCTV and its journalists also partake in the extracting of the confession, the recording of it, alongside post-production and broadcasting. In many instances the victims are kept in RSDL – residential surveillance at a designated location – where one is kept, for up to 6 months, without access to lawyer, held incommunicado, in solitary confinement, and where neither family nor public is told where the victim is. According to international law RSDL as described above constitutes an Enforced Disappearance. Of note is that in all known cases of RSDL police have also refused the prosecutor’s office to visit to check against torture and other maltreatment, claiming such visits could hinder the investigation. Yet, CCTV has been given access to assist with extraction and recording of such forced TV confessions.


In some testimonies, the journalists are also noted as actively planning and directing the extraction and recording together with the police (or in some cases, State Security).


Severe physical torture, psychological torture, and threats against, and attacks on, siblings, relatives and loved ones is common before the forced TV confession is “agreed” upon. Some people are drugged before the recording, by force or by trickery, including Peter Humphrey.


For details on how CCTV helps extract, record, edit and produce the forced TV confessions, and how it violates both Chinese law, UK law and International law, see the report Scripted and Staged.


The issue is further explored in the book Trial By Media, which is released at the same date as the filing of this complaint. In the book, Peter Humphrey’s full testimony is included, alongside numerous other victims, both Chinese and foreigners.


A hardcopy of the book is provided along with this complaint.


Chapter 8 Expert advice and testimony


For further information, below is a select list of renowned experts on Chinese law, International law, and CCTV and Chinese media, all of whom have agreed to provide expert testimony to Ofcom if requested.

Jerome Cohen, Professor, New York University School of Law, one of the world’s leading China law scholars

Perry Link, Professor, University of California, a leading China scholar

Eva Pils, Professor of Law, Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London

Peter Dahlin, Chinese legal rights activist, Director of Safeguard Defenders, and likewise a victim of China’s use of Forced TV Confessions

Magnus Fiskesjö, Professor of Anthropology, University of Cornell, former Cultural Attaché at the Swedish Embassy, Beijing

Ira Belkin, Professor, Specialist in Criminal Justice in China, New York University School of Law

Owen Nee, US Attorney and China Law Specialist, Managing Partner at In Re Nee, LLC

Dinah Gardner, former journalist, Scholar of Forced TV Confessions

Michael Caster, legal rights activist, editor of “The People’s Republic of the Disappeared”, member of Safeguard Defenders

Nicolas Groffman, Lawyer, Partner, Head of International, China specialist, Harrison, Clark Rickerbys Ltd



Additional expert testimony and contacts can be provided upon request.





  • Ofcom form Of333 (Fairness and Privacy Complaint Form).


  • Hard copy of Scripted and Staged – Behind the scenes of China’s forced TV confessions.




  • Hard copy of Trial By media, the new book on CCTV and Forced TV Confessions, edited by Peter Dahlin.


  • Hard copy and digital copy of artist rendering of situation during Peter Humphrey’s first confession recording.


  • USB with TV broadcast collection, V1-V5, and copies of all other appendixes and filings.






Content: News

Type of Service: Editorial


Licensee: Arqiva Limited


Contact Details: Anirban Roy

8th Floor, The Met Building

22 Percy Street




Telephone: 0330 303 6816

Website: www.arqiva.com

Email: kathryn.meadmore@arqiva.com

License Number: DTAS100508BA/15





Type of Service: Editorial


Licensee: Star China Media Limited


Contact Details: Alice Tang

Unit A, 9th Floor,

MG Tower,

133 Hoi Bun Road,



Telephone: +852 3996 3702


Email: alicetang@startv.com.cn

License Number: TLCS000575BA/2



Peter Humphrey

Filed at Ofcom office on 2018-11-23


[1] Ofcom decision BSC 68(11) https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0032/52997/press-tv.pdf

[2] Ofcom broadcasting code (PDF): https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0027/19287/bcode09.pdf

First death reported in new Liuzhi system

Screenshot from aboluowang.com.

The first death under liuzhi (留置), a new custodial system in China over Communist Party members and government workers that is completely outside judicial control was reported on 8 May by Caixin. [The story has since been removed]. A cached version can be read here.

  RSDLmonitor press release on first death in Liuzhi


The brief article described how Chen Yong (陈勇), 45, from Nanping city in Fujian province had been detained for 26 days under liuzhi on a bribery case when the family received notification that he was dead. They said his torso was covered in bruises. They have requested an investigation into the death. Liuzhi was legalized along with the new National Supervision Commission (NSC) this March.

Caixin reported that Mr. Chen was formerly a driver to a local leader. The family told the news site that Mr. Chen was taken from his home on 9 April by officers from the Jianyang district’s Supervision Commission (the local branch of the NSC). That evening the family received an official notice from the Supervision Commission that he had been taken into liuzhi.

A US-based Chinese language website – aboluowang – reported that he died on the 5 April and that the story had been widely reported on Chinese media but later scrubbed. The website also says his wife had requested recordings of the interrogations but was refused. Mr. Chen was said to be in good health and ex-military. Until 2016, he was the driver for Lin Qiang (林强), the deputy district chief of Jianyang, who is also being investigated by the Supervision Commission.

Liuzhi replaces the much feared and extremely secretive shuanggui system for CCP party members, but has expanded its reach to include all party and government workers. Theoretically, even teachers, nurses and doctors could be detained under Liuzhi. The legal framework for the system is very similar to Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), a system for secret, prolonged, incommunicado detention that has so far mostly been used on lawyers, journalists and rights defenders.

The news of this first death under liuzhi is extremely concerning. Like RSDL, the new liuzhi system will likely significantly expand cases of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and maltreatment.

Data on use of RSDL, shuanggui and the new Liuzhi system is most often kept secret, and reporting on victims of the system has been very limited. The book The People’s Republic of the Disappeared contains extensive first person reporting on RSDL experiences.


Enforced disappearances and torture: our submission on RSDL to the UN

China has said it will take action to stop enforced disappearances and torture yet both are still endemic largely because of the 2013 introduction of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) – a custodial system that lends itself to both rights violations.

At the end of last month, Safeguard Defenders made a submission on RSDL to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process on China saying that the state has not only failed to take legislative action to stop enforced disappearances, but that the legalisation of RSDL has enabled its expanded used and that of torture.  What is the UPR?


Download the full Safeguard Defenders NGO stakeholders report


The evidence carefully presented in this report is drawn from our ongoing and long-term project to build up a detailed database on the use of RSDL.

Some of the key evidence we provided was:

  • Use of torture is prevalent inside RSDL.
  • China has not yet made torture itself a punishable offence.
  • RSDL’s legal framework allows the state to deny knowledge of a suspect’s whereabouts, to conceal the judicial process from public view, deny the detainee access to legal representation, to keep them in solitary confinement, and without mandatory supervision by the prosecutor.
  • Between the previous cycle’s review of China (October 2014), up until this submission (March 2018), 87 cases of the use of RSDL were recorded.
  • The maximum time limit for placement in RSDL is 6 months. Data on 92 cases of known RSDL victims since 2013 shows the average time to be 128 days, and more than one-third is placed in RSDL the full 180 days/6 months.
  • Examples of torture in RSDL include: prolonged solitary confinement (2 weeks to 6 months), forced medication, stress positions, the painful ‘dangling chair’, prolonged sleep and/or food deprivation, beatings, and threats to the physical wellbeing of the victim, threats to family members, relatives and loved ones.

Our submission, in the jargon called an NGO stakeholder report, is in direct response to a number of UN reports and recommendations on China and the country’s own legal commitments. The most important in the context of this submission is China’s own report presented for the UPR review cycle in October 2013 (previous cycle) when it said that it would work to improve and perfect laws to prevent using torture to extract confessions or self-incrimination.

However, since then, the use of torture in China remains prevalent, and  measures to protect against the use of torture are regularly ignored. Another report by Safeguard Defenders, on the lack of protections against torture, will be released soon.

Since that UPR 2013 review, the legal framework concerning enforced disappearances has been significantly weakened, and the state’s use of mechanisms that qualify as leading to enforced disappearances has expanded significantly.

Our list of recommendations includes urging China to abolish RSDL in all its forms, to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and revise the language in domestic law to explicitly make torture illegal.


What is the UPR?

The UPR, the Universal Periodic Review, is a UN mechanism for reviewing a country’s full commitments under the United Nations and International Law. Every country is reviewed every four years. The country in question submits its own report on how it views its progress, the UN compiles its own report from various UN organs, and civil society can submit their reports, often on a specific subject. These stand as the basis for a full review of that country, and all other UN member states can ask questions and make recommendations for how that country needs to improve any aspect of their commitment under international obligations. China was last reviewed in 2013, and will be reviewed again this year.


Foreigners, torture, and televised confessions: RSDLmonitor launches RSDL prisoner database

In the first ever database on the use of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), initial data shows that many victims were not from mainland China, were forced to appear in a televised confession and reported being subjected to torture.

These results come from RSDLmonitor’s long-term project to build up a detailed database on the use of RSDL. It will be used to explore how widely RSDL is being employed and what human rights violations – such as torture and lack of prosecutorial oversight – are being systematically abused. The database has 91 cases so far.

For more on how the database is being built and to contribute please click here.


Some initial results


  • About one third (or 29) of the 91 cases were handled in Beijing or Tianjin.
  • There were three grouped cases: Guangdong (a group of petitioners); Jiangsu (activists caught up during the 2016 G20 meeting); and Zhejiang (members of a house church).
  • So far, 20 confirmed cases were overseen by the Ministry of State Security (particularly those cases involving foreigners).



  • More than one third were investigated for Endangering State Security crimes; another 10 cases were connected to state or military secrets.
  • Another quarter were investigated for public order crimes. Although illegal under Chinese law, these RSDL cases had lawyer and family access and prosecutor oversight denied to the detainee.



  • Most victims of RSDL are men; just 15 women have been identified so far.
  • 10 of the 91 cases are not from mainland China (Sweden, UK, Canada, US, Taiwan and Hong Kong).



  • All except one of the 25 victims of RSDL that we have information on their treatment, were subjected to various degrees of mental or physical torture. Examples of tortures endured were: sleep deprivation, forced into stress positions, prolonged solitary confinement, and threats to loved ones. Less frequent but still common were: beatings, being shackled into painful positions, and threats to the victim, including death threats.
  • In 19 cases – that’s more than one in five, the victim was made to record a televised confession.
  • Another 26 victims reported that they were forced to fire their own choice of lawyer.
  • Of the 20 cases that provided information on prosecutor oversight, not a single one said they had received a visit.
  • Of the 50 cases that provided information on RSDL notification, 30 said their family had been given written notification – although often delayed – while another 11 said notification had only been verbal (in violation of the law). In another 10 cases, the family had not been notified at all.


The database

The database asks wide-ranging questions that cover basic data on the case (suspected crime, location, duration); treatment inside RSDL (forms of torture, lawyer and family access, forced confessions); the ministry responsible and outcomes; and post-RSDL (continued surveillance, physical and mental issues).  This is an ongoing project and will generate rich data on this grave human rights violation. For more details see below.

The database (which is not being made public because of security concerns for the participants) is compiled by soliciting victims or their families to complete a questionnaire and/or online research.

This research is important because neither the Chinese Supreme Court’s nor the Supreme Procurator’s official databases include more than the occasional entry for cases where RSDL has been employed. Furthermore, there is a tendency for human rights groups to only report on cases which involve human rights defenders. The state’s use of RSDL goes much wider than that.


Can you help?

Have you or someone you know been a victim of RSDL since it was legalized (1 January 2013)? If so, please contact RSDLmonitor at contact@RSDLmonitor.com with any information, even if it’s just a name. All information will be kept strictly confidential. If it’s possible to fill in the questionnaire, you may download it here: (RSDL Questionnaire form (EN)).

The Chinese version of this questionnaire can be found on this page.

Details on the database

There are four data areas:

  • Dataset 1: Basic data on the victim: alleged crime, location of RSDL, date in, release date, duration and what form notification was given if any.
  • Dataset 2: Treatment inside RSDL: forms of maltreatment and torture, lawyer access, family notification of whereabouts, forced to relinquish rights to see own lawyer, and forced to record a TV confession.
  • Dataset 3: Data on law enforcement side: entry and exit points, ministry responsible (state security or domestic security), whether sent to trial, form of sentencing, form of release.
  • Dataset 4: Data on post-RSDL: house arrest, surveillance, and mental/physical consequences and treatment.

Submission to UN group on Enforced Disappearances on Yu Wensheng

On 1 February 2018, RSDLMonitor submitted a communication to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生). An edited version of this communication can be found below.


On Yu Wensheng: Yu (male) was born in Beijing, China. He passed the bar exam in 1999, and has been practicing law in Beijing since 2002. Yu rose to prominence within the rights defense community for representing politically sensitive cases, assisting other persecuted lawyers, and for his high-profile advocacy for political reform.

On his disappearance: Yu was detained by Beijing police on 19 January 2018. By 24 January, Beijing police claimed his case had been transferred to another branch, but refused to say which. On 27 January, his wife was shown a document stating that Yu had been placed under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ under Tongshan PSB, Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province.

On current situation: Yu stands accused of ‘inciting subversion of state power’, a crime under the category of ‘endangering state security’. This means the police have the right to conceal his whereabouts, deny access to family and legal counsel, and to keep him  incommunicado. He can legally be kept in RSDL for six months, and will likely be held in solitary confinement. No court approval is needed for RSDL.

Of concern. Based on information from prior victims of RSDL, especially within the rights defense community, and those accused of ‘endangering state security’, it is very likely that Yu will be kept in prolonged solitary confinement, be kept incommunicado, be denied oversight and supervision by the prosecutors office, and that he will face physical and mental torture.


Edited for brevity and clarity for general readership





(a) * Family name(s): Yu (余)

(b) Given names(s): Wensheng (文生)

(d) Sex: male

(e) Occupation/profession: Lawyer

ID information removed.

(g) Date of birth: 1967-11-11

(h) Place and country of birth: Beijing, China

(k) Nationality or nationalities: Chinese



(a) * Date of arrest, abduction or disappearance 

  •  Detention January 19 (2018), 06.30am.
  • Disappearance Jan 24-28 (2018), exact date, time unknown.


(b) * Place of arrest, abduction or where the disappearance occurred


Detention. Yu was detained by Beijing City, Shijingshan District, Public Security Bureau, i.e., Police (PSB) along with a SWAT team on the parking lot next to Gusheng Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing at roughly 06.30am, January 19 (2018). At the time, he was walking his 13-year-old son to school. Yu was taken to Shijingshan District Police Station and charged with “disrupting public service”.


Disappearance. Police at Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) holding Yu told lawyers on January 24, and again on January 25 and 26, that his case had been transferred to another organ, and thus Yu was no longer under their control. They refused to provide any other information.


On the evening of January 27, Beijing PSB accompanied by the Tongshan District PSB, Xuzhou City in Jiangsu Province, searched Yu’s home between 9pm and 1am the next morning. Xu Yan (许艳), Yu’s wife, was present. During the search on the house, Tongshan District PSB gave Xu a document stating Yu had been placed under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) under their authority, and his charge had been changed to “inciting subversion of state power” (Article 105 of China’s Criminal Code), which is categorized as a crime of endangering national security. This document did not indicate where Yu was being held and neither was Xu told, then or since.


— Note on RSDL

‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ is a compulsory measure police can take against a suspect that does not require court approval (Article 72 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law or CPL) and takes place outside of a detention center or case-handling area. The suspect can be kept under RSDL for up to six months.


The police may refuse the person access to legal counsel (Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the CPL) and they may also refuse to notify the family of the whereabouts of the person (Article 83 of the CPL) if the charges against them fall under the category of endangering national security.


The legal requirement on RSDL oversight stipulated in the Provisions on People’s Procuratorates’ Oversight of Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location, only states (Article 17) that the procuratorate may conduct visits to supervise the use of RSDL on the suspect and speak with the suspect and that such supervision should not impede the investigation (Article 19). Police have the authority to determine whether such supervision would impede the investigation.


If these exceptions of endangering national security are invoked, the family of someone being held under RSDL will not be notified of their location nor will the suspect have access to a lawyer for the entire duration of RSDL. Furthermore, there will be no oversight from the procuratorate. Based on the prior use of RSDL, this means the detainee will be held in solitary confinement and may also be subjected to physical and mental torture during this period.

Further actions relevant to the case.


The same day as Yu’s detention (January 19), Shijingshan District PSB searched both Yu’s home and his office where they confiscated computers, documents, and cell phones.


On January 27, police again raided Yu’s family home. At around 9pm that day, the electricity to the house was cut. When Xu Yan (Yu’s wife) and their son went outside to check, the police (officers from both Shijingshan and Tongshan Districts PSBs) stormed the apartment. They confiscated their mobile phones and spent the next four hours searching the house and confiscating other materials until 1am the next morning (January 28). In violation of Article 138 of the CPL, they did not ask Xu to sign a record of the search. Furthermore, they did not provide Xu with a list of all materials confiscated for inspection and signature, nor give her a copy of such a list, in violation of Article 140 of the CPL.


During the search, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) officers gave Xu a notice stating that Yu had been placed under RSDL. The notice also said his charge had been changed to “inciting subversion of state power” and that he was now under the jurisdiction of Tongshan District PSB.


At the end of the search, Shijingshan District PSB also summoned Xu related to charges of “inciting subversion of state power”.  She was taken to Guang Ning Police Station, Shijingshan District, Beijing, where she was interrogated overnight and again in the morning the next day.


Around 2pm that day, January 28, police took Xu home and again searched the house. This time they collected a number of Yu’s files related to religious cases as well official United Nations materials. At that point, Xu was released, but in violation of Article 84 of the CPL, Xu was neither shown nor given a release notice.


Note: Although the document stating that Yu had been placed under RSDL was dated January 27, 2018, police at the Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) said on January 24, 2018 that Yu’s case had been transferred to another organ, and thus Yu was no longer under their control.


(c) * Date  when  the  person  was  last  seen


Around 0630am, January 19, 2018 (his 13-year-old son, witnessed his father being detained by police on Gusheng Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing City).


Yu’s last known whereabouts, according to the detention warrant, was Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所).


(d) * Place where the person was last seen


Same as answer to 2(c) above.


(e) Please, provide a full description of how the disappearance took place 


Around 20 police officers from Beijing Shijingshan District PSB, and members of a SWAT team, surprised and surrounded Yu and his son, at around 0630am on January 19, 2018 as he was walking his son to school.


A physical encounter between Yu and the police officers then ensued. Yu was placed into a vehicle and driven off. The son rushed home to their apartment to tell his mother what had happened.


(f) * State or State-supported forces believed to be responsible for the disappearance.


Official documents state that Yu Wensheng’s initial detention was carried out by the Beijing City, Shijingshan District PSB. His subsequent transfer to RSDL was under the authority of Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) in Jiangsu Province. This was likely only possible with approval and coordination by a higher-level police authority. Yu’s case has no direct connection with Xuzhou, and the reason for this transfer is also likely because the police want his case to be handled far from Beijing, where Yu was born and has been living and working, and thus has a support network. 

The disappearance of Yu Wensheng stands in violation of numerous counts of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance


By refusing to acknowledge the whereabouts of Yu after placement in RSDL, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) stands in violation of Article 2. By refusing to state to which organ Yu has been transferred to Beijing Shijingshan PSB also stand in violation of the same Article.


The denial of his whereabouts per definition makes his detention secret, in direct violation of Article 17, Paragraph 1.


Lawyers and his family have been denied the right to communicate with Yu in any form, in violation of Article 17, Paragraph 2, Subsections D, E and F.


By concealing Yu’s current whereabouts, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) are in violation of Article 17, Paragraph 3, Subsection E, while Beijing Shijingshan PSB is in violation of Subsection H. Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) is also in violation of Article 18, Paragraph 1, Subsection B, while Beijing Shijingshan PSB is in violation of Subsection D.


(g) If identification as State agents is not possible, please indicate why you believe that Government authorities, or persons linked to them, may be responsible for the incident.


Official documents and his son’s testimony are evidence that Yu Wensheng is under the custody of Chinese police.

  • Beijing Shijingshan PSB was the authority for Yu’s initial detention.
  • Beijing Shijingshan PSB and Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) raided Yu’s home and office.
  • The notice on Yu’s RSDL placement is from Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City).


(h) If there are witnesses to the incident, please provide their names and relation to the victim. If they wish to remain anonymous, indicate if they are relatives, by-standers, or others. If there is evidence, please specify.


Yu’s son, witnessed the initial detention on January 19, 2018. Police showed his wife, Xu Yan, her husband’s detention warrant on January 20 and later the document stating he had been transferred into RSDL on January 27.


 (i) Additional Information on the case. Please indicate any other relevant information that could be useful to find the person.


About Yu Wensheng: Yu is one of China’s most well-known lawyers. He passed the bar exam in 1999 and has been working as a lawyer since 2002. Yu was detained twice before, in 2014 and 2015. He attempted to file a lawsuit against Beijing PSB for the torture he endured during his 99-day detention in 2014.


In mid-2017, Yu’s application to renew his lawyer license was rejected after he tried to represent fellow lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who disappeared in July 2015. On January 12, 2018, his application to set up a new law firm was rejected, because he had publicly expressed opposition to leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.


On January 15, 2018, his lawyer license was revoked, on the grounds that he had not been employed by a law firm for six months (note: in China, you cannot be employed as a lawyer by a law firm without a valid lawyer license).


On January 18, 2018, the day before his detention, he posted an open letter online calling for political reform.




* Indicate any action taken taken by the relatives or others to locate the person. You are required to state the following: when, by whom, and before which organ the actions were taken.


(a) Complaints

Between January 19 and January 26, seven (7) different lawyers, several of whom have written powers of attorney to represent Yu, visited the Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) for a total of nine (9) times. All were denied access to Yu either because the detention center was closed or that the visit had not been given prior approval. On January 24 (and again on January 25 and January 26) the center said his case had been transferred to another organ.


(b) Other steps taken

Xu Yan, Yu Wensheng’s wife, visited Shijingshan District Detention Center several times, requesting permission to see her husband and to deposit funds for his use inside the detention center. Both requests were denied.

RSDL Resources

residential surveillance at a designated location

Legal name: Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (or Place); RSDL; and in Chinese, 指定居所监视居住

Well-known victims: Ai Weiwei, Gao Zhisheng, Liu Xiaobo, Wang Yu, the Hong Kong booksellers, Peter Dahlin, Lee Ming-che

Related human rights issues: Torture, threats to family, denial of access to  lawyer,  forced medication, sleep and food deprivation, delayed sentencing, forced confessions pre-trial and at trial, secret trial, delayed trial, and non-release release



  • RSDL in Chinese law (articles 72 to 77 are relevant): ChinaLawTranslate,: Criminal Procedure Law (2012), 8 April 2013
  • Oversight of RSDL in Chinese law: ChinaLawTranslate: Provisions on People’s Procuratorates’ Oversight of Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location,  14 July 2016
  • Enforced disappearances in international law: United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner:International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances
  • Elizabeth M Lynch: China Law & PolicyCodifying Illegality? The Case of Jiang Tianyong, 20 January 2017
  • Jerome Cohen: Jerry’s Blog:Disappearance of Chinese human rights lawyer: what it means to be placed under “residential surveillance” in China, 26 December 2016
  • Margaret K. Lewis: China Law and Policy:Who Will Be Watched: Margaret K. Lewis on China’s New CPL & Residential Surveillance , 25 September 2015


  •  Does China’s New Detention Law Matter, China Digital Times, 13 March 2013
  • What You Need to Know About China’s ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Place’, Yaqiu Wang, Chinachange, 2 August 2015
  • New Type of Detention Marks China’s Intensifying Crackdown on Civil Society, Jojje Olsson, Taiwan Sentinel, 15 May 2017
  • Residential Surveillance at a Designated Place, Wikipedia
  • Arrested, Detained: A Guide to Navigating China’s Police Powers, Stanley Lubman, Wall Street Journal, 12 August 2014


Human rights reviews & reports

  • Congressional-Executive Commission on China annual reports, 2016 and 2017 include dedicated sections on RSDL under Criminal Justice chapter
  • Prevention of Torture: concerns with the use of ‘residential confinement in a designated residence’, report by the Rights Practice in relation to the fifth periodic report from China, submitted to the Committee Against Torture, 56 Session, Sep- Dec 2015


Victim stories

  • CHRD update on arbitrary detention and torture of Chinese lawyer Xie Yang, China Human Rights Defenders, 20 February 2017
  • China lawyer recounts torture under Xi’s ‘war on law’, John Sudworth, BBC, 26 October 2017
  • The disappeared: Accounts from inside China’s secret prisons, Chieu Luu and Matt Rivers, CNN, 27 November 2017



  • Legalizing the Tools of Repression, Nicholas Bequelin, The New York Times, 29 February 2012
  • China’s secret detention of lawyers threatens the rule of law, William Nee, Hong Kong Free Press, 29 September 2015
  • The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, Michael Caster, The Diplomat, 6 December 2015




United Nations Treaties and Bodies 

A number of UN treaties and their associated bodies (with which complaints can be filed) cover the human rights violations associated with RSDL. They are:

China status: not a signatory

China status: signed, but not ratified

China status: ratified.