TORONTO—Canadian Broadcasting Corp. announced Friday it will air an edited film on the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, after widespread criticism that the public broadcaster was bowing to pressure from the Chinese regime by pulling the film this week.
The film will air on CBC Newsworld's documentary program, The Lens, Nov. 20 at 10 p.m. Peter Rowe, the film's independent director and producer, says the last-minute changes being made will not dilute the film's message.
Beyond the Red Wall: The Persecution of Falun Gong was pulled suddenly on Tuesday, just hours before it was to air. The film had already aired in French Canada and in other countries and had been approved by CBC's editors and lawyers months earlier.
CBC told The Epoch Times Wednesday that it had received a call from a cultural attaché at the Chinese embassy in Ottawa and was reviewing the film. At that time, the broadcaster gave no date when Red Wall might air, and information about the film was temporarily removed from CBC's website.
CBC denied that it was catering to Chinese censorship.
The film includes the story of Mr. Zhang Kunlun, a Canadian art professor who was tortured in China for his belief in Falun Gong. Some are quoted in the film saying the persecution of the group is so severe that it warrants a boycott of the Olympic Games. CBC owns the Canadian broadcasting rights for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Most of Canada's largest newspapers reported the incident this week. On Friday, the Canadian Association of Journalists issued a statement deriding the last-minute move to yank the film.
"The CAJ is concerned the CBC has sent a message of self-censorship by pulling a previously aired and carefully vetted documentary just as it was about to be broadcast," said CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch.
Another organization, Canadians Against Propaganda, protested outside CBC headquarters in Toronto on Friday. CAP opposes the Chinese regime's influencing Canadian media.
CBC got the message.
"I think the CBC heard very clearly that people were concerned about censorship and wanted to see this film," said Rowe. He says the CBC wanted the revamped version to air as soon as technically possible.
And no cuts are being made to the film, Rowe says.
"The film will actually be slightly longer than it was going to be with the new updates we're adding," says Rowe.
The changes include new information on reports that the Chinese communist regime has been killing Falun Gong believers for their organs and selling the organs for profit, some to foreigners.
In the film, Rowe interviews former Canadian parliamentarian David Kilgour who together with human rights lawyer David Matas has investigated the organ harvesting claims.
Their report, released last year, confirmed the practice is taking place.
Additional footage is also being added to a segment of the film that discredits an alleged "self-immolation" incident. In January 2001, several people set themselves on fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
The Chinese authorities widely propagated footage of the incident, claiming the immolators to be Falun Gong practitioners and alleging that Falun Gong had led them to burn themselves. The footage has been one of the regime's greatest justifications for its now-eight-year persecution of the group.
An analysis of the self-immolation video in Rowe's film supports that the incident was staged by the Chinese communists.
Rowe is pleased with the changes. "I don't think it has diminished the film at all. The voices that are heard in the film are not muted at all."
He also finds it ironic, given all the media attention this week, that the Chinese regime may have hoped to silence the film's message by pressuring CBC.
"Canadians are still going to get a chance to see the film, and of course with the attention that it's received, it's going to be a lot more Canadians who will have an interest in it."