Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

European Parliament Members Seek Dialogue Over Satellite Disruption

Epoch Times - 29 December 2008

by Evan Mantyk

Five European Parliament (EP) Members are inviting the chairman of France-based satellite company Eutelsat to their next plenary session amidst reports that the company caved to pressure from the Chinese communist regime.

The company ceased broadcast of an independent Chinese-language network into communist-controlled China in June, citing technical reasons. A July 10 investigative report by Reporters Without Borders revealed, however, that the broadcast cut was a premeditated act, owing to influence from the Chinese regime ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

“As you know, as a firm defender of human rights in China, the EP has a clear standpoint on defending the freedom of media,” reads the letter addressed to Eutelsat Chairman Giuliano Berretta.

Berretta has made no response to the letter dated Dec. 17.

Subsequent reports from Reporters Without Borders have also shown that Eutelsat’s current claim that it does not have space on its W5 satellite for NTDTV is not accurate.

“There is plenty of spare capacity on Eutelsat's Satellite W5, particularly since the US Broadcast Board of Governors has withdrawn from it, for instance. Voice of America left Satellite W5 as of August 1, leaving excess capacity available,” said EP Member Bart Staes. “The fact is, they're giving in to pressure from the Chinese communist regime .”

The recent letter to Berretta highlights three areas of pressing concern for human rights in China, including the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual group and the suppression of rights in Tibet. The third area is the Chinese regime’s “organ harvesting,” the name for the fatal removal and sale of organs from death row prisoners and from Falun Gong practitioners held for their beliefs.

“It is clear that providing free and uncensored information to the Chinese people is more important than ever,” reads the letter.{etrelated 848, 962, 1383, 1596, 2616, 3216}

New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), the New York-based network whose broadcast was cut, was the first Chinese-language media to break news about the SARS epidemic weeks before the Chinese regime allowed coverage. NTDTV also carries extensive coverage of the melamine-contaminated products that left 300,000 infants severely ill and six dead in China and have spread around the world. Both incidents spread far beyond China’s borders, affecting travel, import regulations, and health worldwide.

“NTDTV is pioneering this effort to bridge the information gap between the East and the West,” said Executive Vice President of NTDTV Shiyu Zhou.

Zhou said the letter from the EP Members is indicative of the strong support governments and regular people are showing for freedom of information in China.

“They care about China and the people there and they really want to help improve the situation there,” he said.

The letter is co-signed by EP Members Marco Cappato, Hanna Foltyn, Thomas Mann, Charles Tannock, and Helga Truepel, who come from the EP’s four major political groups.

The five signers have introduced a written declaration to the EP that urges Eutelsat to resume NTDTV transmission to China and calls on EP Member States to take “necessary action to help restore NTDTV’s broadcasts to China and to support access to uncensored information for millions of Chinese citizens.”

Ahead of the January session of the EP, the declaration penned in October already has 315 signers from the 785 EP Members. If a majority of members signs the declaration, it automatically becomes a passed resolution and is read by the EP President at the next session, a strong message to Eutelsat and a victory for China’s surging human rights movement.

“We have seen an overwhelming outpour of grass roots support. [Eutelsat] are doing something against the will of the people,” said Carrie Hung, NTDTV spokeswoman.