As a professor of Chinese history at the Universite de Montreal, for the past seven years my main research project has been the Falun Gong, the persecuted Chinese spiritual movement. As one of the few credible academic authorities working on the Falun Gong, I have presented my research many times over the years. On two occasions, after speaking at Princeton and at Amsterdam, I received a series of strange e-mails from people I didn't know, with strange attachments. All of the messages had been routed either through the Chinese embassy in Ottawa or Paris. I suspected someone was trying to crash my computer, and I contacted the Foreign Affairs' China desk in Ottawa, who sent a CSIS agent to see me. He told me that his office spent considerable time slapping the Chinese embassy on the wrists, reminding them of the limitations of their freedom of activity on Canadian soil. My "poisoned e-mails" were added to the list.
The saga of Peter Rowe's documentary on the Falun Gong Beyond the Red Wall -- for which I was interviewed -- suggests that the Chinese have yet to learn their lesson. After Mr. Rowe received a call from the CBC telling him that they were pulling the documentary and demanding certain edits, I wrote to the CBC. Senior producer Andrew Johnson told me that it was the crisis in Pakistan which led CBC to pull the film, but that: "In the meantime, we are reviewing the current cut of the documentary, not at the behest of the Chinese government as some seem to be suggesting, but to ensure we are able to present a high-quality documentary with the high standards of quality and accuracy that our audiences expect."
This makes no sense. But what is not hard to imagine is a scenario where the Chinese might suggest to the CBC that their contracts for the Olympic Games might be up for rediscussion, unless they checked again to make sure that Beyond the Red Wall was "balanced."
Professor, departement d'histoire, Universite de Montreal.
According to CBC spokesman Jeff Keay, the network postponed the airing of Beyond the Red Wall: The Persecution of the Falun Gong after the Chinese embassy "expressed their concern that the documentary be accurate." How odd. According to the producer, Peter Rowe, CBC authorities had signed off on the film in March, 2007.
The abrupt cancellation of this documentary is outrageous. Does the CBC no longer believe that its executives can vet a documentary? Does the CBC require unseen outside approval? On the eve of Remembrance Day when we celebrate the virtues of freedom and the men who died for it, the CBC should not acquiesce to pressure from a foreign and totalitarian regime.
Dr. Gerry Koffman,
Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting,
The CBC is working cheek and jowl with the Chinese regime to promote the 2008 Olympics, while their colleagues, courageous Chinese journalists who dare to print the truth and refuse to be "re-educated" are suffering in gulags, labouring without pay to make our Christmas tree lights. Can it get any more gruesomely ironic?
Sophia Bronwen, Vancouver.
It's bad enough to have Beijing deny their persecution of the Falun Gong without having the CBC go along with them. Our national broadcaster better have some guts and take a stand for human rights sooner rather than later, and broadcast the true picture, not the glossy one.
Marie Beaulieu, Victoria.
© National Post 2007