In this ground-breaking report released today, 10 April 2018, Safeguard Defenders exposes the lies and the abuse behind China’s illegal practice of coercing detainees to confess on television and calls on governments to take steps to pressure China to abandon this practice, and put into place safeguards so that detainees are protected against such abuse in the future.
Scripted and Staged: Behind the scenes of China’s forced TV confessions uses moving first-person testimonies and in-depth interviews to reveal how confessions are forced and extracted through threats, torture, and fear; how police dictate and direct confessions; and how they are often used as tools of propaganda for both domestic audiences and as part of China’s foreign policy.
The interviewees in this report describe how the police took charge of the confession from dressing them in “costume”; writing the confession “script” and forcing the detainee to memorise it; giving directions on how to “deliver” their lines—including in one case, being told to weep; to ordering retake after retake when not satisfied with the result. One interviewee said he spent seven hours recording for what amounted to just a few minutes of broadcast, another was locked in a cage while camera lenses poked through the metal bars, after first being drugged.
One victim was told to weep while he delivered his lines, another was locked in a cage while camera lenses poked through the bars.
The main vehicle for these confessions — China’s state broadcaster CCTV — is not just a channel for their transmission but is an active collaborator in making them. One interviewee described how a CCTV journalist read from a list of questions given to her by the police.
China’s use of forced televised confessions warrants urgent global attention. The practice constitutes a human rights violation not confined to China’s borders: foreign nationals count among the victims – just two month’s ago Chinese police paraded Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai in front of pro-Beijing press.
Police took charge of the confession from dressing the detainee in ‘costume’, writing the confession “script’ and forcing them to memorise it; to giving directions on how to “deliver’ their lines.
Media organizations that film, collaborate with police in the staged and scripted process, and broadcast these confessions, whether they be Chinese state media or private outfits, are as culpable as the CCP in committing this deceptive, illegal and human rights violating practice. To date these media are China’s state-party broadcaster CCTV, and Hong Kong-based media: Phoenix TV, Oriental Daily and South China Morning Post.
As China’s steps up its expansion of its CCP-controlled media overseas, it is now even more urgent to take action so that this human rights abuse and party propaganda can no longer be dressed as “news” and broadcast into homes around the world.