Before covering the huge press response to our new report, Scripted and Staged: behind the scenes of China’s forced TV confessions, a quick update on some follow up actions Safeguard Defenders have taken.
A letter to the Swedish Foreign Ministry
On 16 April, six days after the release of the report, we asked the Swedish Foreign Ministry for a response since two of the victims – Gui Minhai and Peter Dahlin – are Swedish citizens. Mr. Gui, who has given three confessions, is still disappeared in China.
To this request we added a question:
“CGTN, which operates in the EU, broadcast many of these TV confessions. Will Sweden reassess whether CGTN, part of China’s state-owned, Chinese Communist Party-run, media be allowed to operate in Sweden without further scrutiny?”
In their reply, which came after about a week, they said they were not planning to take any action, either an investigation into or sanctions against, Chinese state media in Sweden or EU-wide, for the forced TV confessions but added:
It is unacceptable to force persons deprived of their liberty to be paraded on TV. This has been conveyed to our Chinese counterparts by both Sweden and the EU.
SCMP ignore report
Scripted and Staged was covered by major media around the world from The New York Times in the US, The Guardian in the UK, Le Monde in France to the Asahi Shimbun in Japan. In Hong Kong it was covered by at least four Chinese language-media including Apple Daily and Mingpao and the English-language Hong Kong Free Press. The story is clearly in the public interest globally, but nowhere more so, arguably, than Hong Kong with four victims and three media collaborators from the city. But the leading English-language daily, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) chose to ignore the report.
Yes, our report named and shamed the SCMP for making Mr. Gui’s third confession in February 2018, but it is essential for media – if they are to do their job with integrity and serve the public – to report on all stories even those where they are criticized. There are 45 confessions in this report.
As part of making this report, Safeguard Defenders reached out to Phila Sui, the reporter who covered Mr. Gui’s confession, in March for an interview. He did not respond. Leaving us to conclude that an invitation from Ningpo police to take part in a gross violation of human rights was more appealing than an email exchange with a human rights NGO.
What the press said
Dozens of media covered our report from big names (The New York Times) to the less well known, (Hong Kong Economic Journal), broadsheets (Wall Street Journal) to the tabloids (the UK’s The Sun), by news agencies (Taiwan’s CNA) across the globe from Japan to Iceland, in more than a dozen languages from Italian to Czech, and Portuguese to Cantonese. We were mentioned in blogs and news lists including a thorough overview at China Digital Times. We were also featured in many radio reports (Australia’s ABC ) and had extensive TV coverage (France2).
Here’s a snapshot of some of the media that wrote about Scripted and Staged (more coverage is on the way).
The New York Times (US)
In the unpolished video that appeared on state television one October morning in 2015, Wang Yu, one of China’s most prominent lawyers, denounces her own son.
The Guardian (UK)
China must stop airing forced confessions from human rights activists, a campaign group has said in a report that details how detainees are coerced into delivering scripted remarks.
ABC – The World Today (Australia)
A new report by a human rights group warns Australia should be wary of collaborating with Chinese media, because of its involvement in forced confessions.
Le Monde (France)
Depuis son arrivée au pouvoir en 2012, le numéro un chinois, Xi Jinping, a remis au goût du jour les autocritiques en vigueur à l’époque maoïste. Seule différence : ces « confessions forcées » de Chinois, mais aussi d’étrangers, sont diffusées aux heures de grande écoute par la télévision publique CCTV.
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Dozens of times over the past five years, high-profile detainees in China have memorized scripts admitting guilt and denouncing “anti-China forces.”