CBC delays Falun Gong film after Chinese protest

The CBC postponed the airing of a documentary about the Falun Gong spiritual movement after receiving calls from the Chinese embassy expressing concern about the film’s subject matter.

Beyond the Red Wall: the Persecution of the Falun Gong was to appear Tuesday evening on CBC Newsworld. It was replaced at the last minute by a rerun of a documentary on President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. The broadcaster says it changed its schedule because recent turmoil in Pakistan made the Musharraf documentary “timely.”

However, a spokesman also acknowledged the CBC has received calls from Chinese diplomats about Beyond the Red Wall and intends to review its contents before returning it to the broadcast schedule.

“We were contacted by the Chinese embassy and they’ve just expressed their concern that the doc(umentary) be accurate – that’s not a problem with us,” said Jeff Keay. “We’re having conversations with the doc’s producer just to review its contents and make sure it’s a good solid documentary.”

Peter Rowe, who wrote and directed the documentary, said a CBC executive called him late Tuesday afternoon to inform him the film would not air that evening. The executive also asked whether Rowe could come to a meeting to discuss “re-editing” his documentary.

“It’s rather surprising, because the film has been in production for about three years and was delivered to the CBC in March, so the authorities and the executives at the CBC signed off on the film quite some time ago,” Rowe said.

A television veteran with credits spanning three decades, Rowe said the CBC’s decision to revisit the film after giving it final approval is odd. “It’s almost unheard of,” he said.

But Keay said last-minute changes are quite common and Beyond the Red Wall eventually will be broadcast. “Often documentaries are edited right up until hours or minutes before a show gets to air,” he said.

The CBC’s website describes Beyond the Red Wall as a “point-of-view” documentary that focuses on the story of Kunlun Zhang, a professor at McGill University and a Falun Gong practitioner, who spent nearly three years in a Chinese labour camp.

The film has already appeared on TV in Spain, Portugal and New Zealand and aired in French on Radio-Canada last month.

Falun Gong is a religious sect that integrates meditation and exercise. The Chinese government outlawed its practice in 1999, describing Falun Gong as a cult and accusing its leaders of practising mind control over followers and posing a risk to society.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday November 8, 2007.
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