China: Government blocks BBC World broadcast

July 9, 2002

His Excellency Jiang Zemin
President, People’s Republic of China
C/o Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20008

Via facsimile: (202) 588-0032

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is very concerned that your government has blocked domestic transmission of BBC World television news broadcasts. This action is the latest in a series of moves by authorities to restrict the work of foreign journalists in China.

On July 1, government officials blocked the encrypted signal that transmits BBC World through the Sinosat 1 satellite.

The Chinese government has not yet offered the BBC any formal explanation for the suspension of broadcasts, according to BBC sources in London. However, the suspension followed a report on BBC World about the banned spiritual group Falun Gong that was broadcast repeatedly on June 30 and July 1.

On July 5, a spokesman for the China International Television Corporation, which regulates foreign programming in the country, told Agence France-Presse that “some programs of the BBC infringed rules on the transmission of foreign programs in China.” He did not clarify which program had offended the government or which rules were broken.

BBC World has been broadcast into China via satellite since January 2001. However, because government censors tightly control both foreign and domestic news, the broadcasts are only available in some hotel rooms and in the homes of foreign residents. The vast majority of Chinese citizens do not see BBC World.

The ban on BBC World is the third recent incident in which foreign media organizations or journalists faced reprisals for their coverage of China. On June 3, authorities detained and later deported Canadian journalist Jiang Xueqin after he filmed labor unrest for the U.S.-based Public Broadcasting Service.

Government authorities also banned distribution of the June 15 edition of The Economist magazine, which contained articles about grassroots democracy, labor unrest, political reform, and other topics your government considers sensitive. In addition, CPJ has also documented recent cases in which the government harassed Chinese citizens for speaking to foreign correspondents.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, CPJ condemns your government’s censorship of foreign media. These actions violate the right to free expression, which is guaranteed by both China’s own constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

CPJ respectfully urges Your Excellency to guarantee that foreign journalists and media organizations operating in China are able to work without fear of reprisal. We also call for the immediate restoration of BBC World broadcasts.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We await your response.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director