Admittedly to my surprise, and the surprise of some others, at 10 p.m. tomorrow, CBC-TV will be showing Beyond the Red Wall -- the documentary it cancelled two weeks ago after the Chinese embassy complained about it being shown.
An array of CBC officials have since denied that China's protests had anything to do with the decision to cancel the show a few hours before it was to run. A previously aired documentary about Pakistan was substituted, with an explanation that it was more newsworthy than the scheduled documentary about the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
(Beyond the Red Wall was shown at 4 a.m. last March 28, so its cost would appear on last year's budget.) CBC spokespeople gave several versions until they co-ordinated scripts to explain that the 11th-hour cancellation was really a postponement for journalistic reasons, and that producer/director/writer Peter Rowe agreed to make minor changes.
I've seen the original documentary and it struck me as fair and well balanced, with Chinese officials given ample opportunity to deny China was "harvesting" organs from imprisoned Falun Gung members for sale to rich and needy foreigners, and to decry Falun Gong as "a cult of evil."
By most objective criteria, Falun Gong is a benign, non-political movement that believes in meditation, compassion, generosity and truthfulness as fundamentals of life -- which, at first, the Communist Beijing regime not only tolerated but endorsed. When Falun Gong's popularity grew faster than the Communist party's, Beijing outlawed it in 1999, and unleashed persecution of it around the world.
Changes in the documentary involve clarification of the supposed self-immolation of Falun Gong members on Tiananmen Square. Falun Gong says it was a Beijing-inspired hoax -- with actors swathed in protective clothing, police ready with fire extinguishers and cameras rolling. All a ploy to discredit Falun Gong, which prohibits suicide.
"The documentary is now strengthened by scenes clarifying how the self-immolation involved Chinese authorities," says Rowe.
He also included a statement from the Chinese that selling organs for transplants to foreigners is illegal (until after the Beijing Olympics, one presumes).
Rowe says publicity resulting from the CBC pulling the video has been enormous.
Newspapers around the world picked up the story "and I suspect the Chinese now wish they'd never raised the issue."
Tomorrow's viewing audience will be substantially greater than if it had run when originally scheduled.
My surprise is that the CBC agreed to air the documentary in the first place, since Beijing is pathological when it comes to Falun Gong -- spying on, and subverting them from their embassies around the world.
Former federal cabinet minister David Kilgour and Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Mata have extensively investigated organ harvesting allegations, and have amassed at least 33 pieces of evidence that Falun Gong prisoners have had lungs, hearts, livers, kidneys and corneas taken to be sold for transplants.
The documentary points out that every year China sentences more people to death than the rest of the world combined -- over 1,000 a year, an admitted source of human organs for sale.
Kilgour notes that 31,500 transplants in China far exceed death row executions. That statistic alone should alert the world.
Where the wait for a lung transplant can take months in Canada, in China it's 15 days. Death row inmates (and Falun Gong prisoners) are warehoused until their organs are needed.
Kilgour cites one doctor who had a mental breakdown after removing 2,000 corneas from Falun Gong prisoners over a two-year period.
The Wall Street Journal's Ian Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize for his reports on the persecution of Falun Gong.
In Rowe's documentary, even former justice minister Irwin Cotler protests abuses to Falun Gong.
Kilgour is one who feels it was a grotesque mistake to award Beijing the 2008 Olympics, which will be used for propaganda purposes, rather as Hitler used the 1936 Berlin Olympics to enhance Nazi prestige.
Anyway, watch Beyond the Red Wall tomorrow night and judge for yourself.