New Tang Dynasty Television
Press Conference, International Press Centre, Brussels - March 15th 2005
I strongly believe that the renewal of the New Tang Dynasty Television contract with Eutelsat without any Chinese political interference and with strong resistance by Eutelsat to commercial threats by the People’s Republic of China, (it is particularly disgraceful if the allegation is true to use the Olympic Games media contracts as a weapon as a these games are supposed to reflect the true spirit of friendship and communication between people), is essential to demonstrate that the EU and its large media corporations, although understandably eager to trade with China will not compromise on their commitment to fundamental human rights, in particular freedom of expression and access to information.
NTDTV, a U.S. based Chinese language broadcaster, is widely watched in Europe, (including by my own constituents in London), North America and in China, where unlike their kinsmen elsewhere in the free world, they have only limited access to uncensored news or the facility to watch free political debate.
This obsession with secrecy and censorship in China is illustrated by the recent death of Zhan Ziyan, a former PM and communist leader, whose passing barely got a mention in the media as he had sided with the pro-democracy Tianamen square demonstrators. Dissidents were even prevented from attending his funeral!
As Vice-President of the Human Rights Sub Committee of the European Parliament, I am all too well aware of the repressive nature of the government of the PRC on a whole range of human rights issues. Many people are familiar with the repression of the Tibetans and religious minorities. China in its defence claims that, as it is the largest country in the world with 1.3 billion people, it cannot afford western style freedom of expression and conscience, as this would lead to a breakdown of national cohesion and law and order. However India, also with over 1 billion people, manages to be a democracy and have a largely tolerant multi-cultural society in spite of its enormous size and it still grows economically and has a thriving free press.
China in contrast even feels it has to censor the internet! Its systematic use of torture and the inappropriate use of the death penalty has also led to widespread condemnation in the west. A number of countries, particularly France and Germany for trade reasons, are eager to play down the human rights situation and media freedom in China and even go as far as demanding the lifting of the 15 year old EU arms export embargo imposed after Tianamen Square and which threatens peaceful Taiwan with superior European weaponry. The recent proposal by the rubber stamp parliament or People's National Congress to pass an anti-secession law threatening Taiwan with force, further demonstrates China's obsession with secrecy as the new law's content will only be revealed after promulgation!
We know that China is sensitive to outside western pressure and that the message of TVs like NTDTV gets through to opinion formers. For instance the Chinese government is offering as a sweetener, if we lift the arms embargo, to change the "re-education through labour" laws which allow police the power to lock-up protesters against the one child policy and Christian minorities for up to 4 years without judicial review in order to prove to us in the EU the improved climate in human rights in China.
In my view Eutelsat must allow NTDTV to carry on broadcasting otherwise it would send all the wrong signals to Beijing that we in the EU do not care how China treats its own people.
I appeal to Mr Berretta, CEO of Eutelsat to review and reverse his lamentable decision.