Insisting that pressure from China didn't influence 11th-hour cutting, juggling and editing, the CBC documentary on the persecution of Falun Gong in China -- Beyond the Red Wall -- ran Tuesday night and was a searing indictment of Beijing's paranoia.
Two weeks earlier, after Chinese officials complained about it, the CBC yanked the show hours before it was to be aired, even though it had okayed the documentary last March (when it was aired one day at 4 a.m.).
CBC spokesman Jeff Keay admitted the Chinese had complained, but said the film needed more work to be "journalistically rigorous and credible." With something resembling disgust, producer/director of the documentary, Peter Rowe, washed his hands of the final editing, additions, subtractions and changes.
"I made the original changes they wanted, but when they wanted more and more on Friday and Saturday, and kept adding and subtracting, I finally said, 'No more changes by me, you do it if you must.' "
Understandably frustrated at the CBC's frenetic fiddling with his documentary that has already been shown in New Zealand, Spain and Portugal without incident, Rowe recalled the CBC's eight-hour, four-part series last year, China Rises.
"It cost 20 times what they paid me for Red Wall and it was like a travelogue," he said. "No mention of Falun Gong or Tibet. Rather like doing a film in the past about South Africa without mentioning apartheid."
While the CBC denied it was influenced by Chinese pressure, the Epoch Times phoned the CBC's bureau in Beijing and was told by a nervous office manager (who identified himself as Zhu Tao) that Chinese authorities had pestered staff about the documentary. Rowe said he'd heard the same thing.
Rowe's changes amounted to about five minutes of clarification, but he hadn't a clue what the final version would be like.
As it turned out, the documentary that was aired will not please Beijing. Despite heavy editing, there's no escaping the reality that China is persecuting, beating, torturing practitioners of Falun Gong, a non-political movement that advocates, meditation, exercise, tolerance, compassion and truthfulness as the essence of life.
Changes made by the CBC include soft pedalling allegations that Falun Gong practitioners are killed for their vital organs which are then sold to rich foreigners.
Former cabinet minister David Kilgour's investigations into China's "organ harvesting" were largely relegated to the cutting room floor as "unproven." Inserted was an Amnesty International statement that it had no proof of organ transplants -- but it and Human Rights Watch and the Swiss Red Cross were denied access to prisons or hospitals where transplants take place.
What survived was Kilgour's statement that in recent years there have been 31,500 organ transplants in China, where the regime admits organs are taken from about 1,000 death-row criminals annually executed.
Excised were statistics that the wait for a lung transplant in China is 15 days, while in Canada, Britain and the U.S. it can take three to seven years.
Purged also is civil rights lawyer Clive Ansley's view that awarding the 2008 Olympic Games to China "the biggest human rights abuser on the planet" is a propaganda victory mindful of Hitler getting the 1936 Olympics to advertise the superiority of the Nazis.
A lot of sub-titles were added, stating that film footage of incidents was provided by the Falun Gong, implying that these might not be "objective." Cut down to snippets, were scenes of police beating Falun Gong supporters.
Missing were transcripts of Kilgour's interviews with Falun Gong victims and a doctor who claimed to have performed 2,000 cornea transplants in two years from Falun Gong prisoners.
In fairness, CBC editing speeded up the documentary without damaging the basic message of China's paranoid persecution of a benign and seemingly harmless spiritual movement it officially views as "a cult of evil."