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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
Type of Service: Editorial
Licensee: Arqiva Limited
Contact Details: Anirban Roy
8th Floor, The Met Building
22 Percy Street
Telephone: 0330 303 6816
License Number: DTAS100508BA/15
Type of Service: Editorial
Licensee: Star China Media Limited
Contact Details: Alice Tang
Unit A, 9th Floor,
133 Hoi Bun Road,
Telephone: +852 3996 3702
License Number: TLCS000575BA/2
Filed at Ofcom office on 2018-11-23
 Ofcom decision BSC 68(11) https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0032/52997/press-tv.pdf
 Ofcom broadcasting code (PDF): https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0027/19287/bcode09.pdf