By Peter Humphrey
Ofcom’s damning judgment on Monday against Chinese state television outfit CGTN for helping China’s police extract and broadcast forced and false confessions from untried prisoners is an important victory against the human rights abuses of the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship.
During a two-year captivity ordeal in 2013-2015 on manufactured charges, I was twice submitted to this abusive practice, once while locked in a cage with steel bars.
I and my wife were accused of illegal information gathering on behalf of our due diligence firm, ChinaWhys, after being engaged by GlaxoSmithKline to profile a former Chinese GSK executive who turned out to be a whistle-blower informing Chinese police about GSK’s bribery schemes.
I was drugged, handcuffed, locked into a metal chair inside the cage, and questioned by one of my daily police interrogators pretending to be the voice of a journalist, while crews from CCTV and other Chinese media filmed me without obtaining my consent under free will.
CCTV and its English-language offshoot CGTN, both of which are official propaganda organs of the Chinese Communist Party, packaged the material to make it look like a confession of crime and broadcast it worldwide, including on UK air waves.
My complaint, filed in November 2013, unleashed a slew of like-minded actions by numerous complainants, with Ofcom yet to rule on their grievances.
Ofcom’s guilty verdict on CGTN this week is historic on various counts. It was unprecedented that an individual anywhere in the world outside China launched a legal action against an arm of the Chinese Communist Party. It was again unprecedented that an individual anywhere in the world had filed a legal complaint against Chinese state television. My victory is also an unprecedented and massive reprimand to Communist Party authority and abuse.
For me personally, it is a milestone along the path to exoneration while I continue to wrestle with PTSD and cancer caused by my false imprisonment and denial of medical treatment in jail.
But needless to say, I am still a way off from the point where Beijing admits its crimes against me, expresses remorse, and punishes those responsible, which is my ultimate goal.
The verdict comes at a sensitive time in Anglo-Chinese relations when UK diplomacy is wrestling with three big issues: Hong Kong, Huawei and the future of CGTN in this country.
With two, London has recently shifted course to a more anti-CCP posture.
Today the third domino fell. Ofcom will now choose from sanctions ranging from fines to revocation of CGTN’s UK broadcast licence.
I believe the only just course, given the seriality of CGTN’s offences and the gravity of these forced confession abuses, is to strip the licence and send them packing.
There should be no place in our free and open and democratic society for a police state propaganda organ from a hostile country masquerading as a media outfit.
Peter Humphrey has spent 45 years as a sinologist, journalist and businessman. He is an external research affiliate of Harvard University and King’s College London