TO: Julie Miville-Dechêne, Ombusdman, Radio Canada
Téléphone : (514) 597-4757 Télécopieur : (514) 597-5253
FR: Michael Craig, Chair, China Rights Network -- 416-533-3830
RE: "Malaise en Chinatown" documentary
aired on Enquette, October 30, 2008
I am writing you on behalf of the China Rights Network (CRN) to share our concerns about the documentary Malaise en Chinatown which aired in the program series "Enquete" on the French language CBC network on October 30, 2008.
CRN is an alliance of numerous groups concerned about human rights in China. The documentary in question was brought to our attention by our Falun Dafa member group. We have reviewed a translated English transcript of this program, and the complaint about it by Falun Dafa, which you have of course already received. In consultation with our other constituent groups we wish to draw the following points to your attention.
We do not necessarily agree with all the points raised by Falun Dafa in its communication with you, but we do have serious concerns about the way in which this report was done. These include the choices made in editing of interviews given, and failure to fully clarify some of the information presented. Our view is that this report fails to live up to generally accepted standards of journalistic ethics held in Canada. One could call it yellow journalism.
We note that the report depicts Falun Dafa practitioners as some alien force from outside of a racially exoticized place :
"Chinatown is a little taste of the exotic in the heart of Montreal. With its dragons, souvenir shops, and dim sum restaurants. But Chinatown is also a world that hides many secrets. Behind its unreadable face…"
This kind of racist depiction of any ethnic community is completely inappropriate in Canada.
But even worse, the report implies that the Chinese Canadians who are Falun Dafa believers are unwelcome outsiders, not part of this community, who "join the Chinese community", "whose presence in OUR cities creates unease", who "occupy", "harass", are "little known and bothersome" and "whose presence creates malaise" . If the CBC were presented with a program that talked this way about, say Haitians who "join the black community" or "Shi'a heretics who join the Muslim community" there would be an outcry. So there should be over this depiction of Chinese Canadians who happen to be believers in a persecuted religion.
Falun Dafa believers are as much a part of the Chinese community as the newspaper editor Crescent Chau. And here is where the failure to clarify information presented is problematic. Mr. Chau is well known as the editor of a small but intensely pro-Beijing local Chinese paper. This does not mean he is a "spy", but the documentary fails to note that the views he expresses are simply transmitting Communist Party propaganda from China. It is noteworthy that the major and more respected Canadian Chinese papers have not had any problem with Falun Dafa followers. So presenting Mr. Chau as a brave spokesman for the local community the report is presenting distorted information.
The program also depicts Falun Dafa believers and their media as seeking to hide their beliefs, while vigorously promoting them. For instance in referring to their cultural performances, it claims "Once again like the newspaper, and their radio and television stations, the followers hide their goal of promoting their cause". One wonders how these two things can be done simultaneously. In looking at the flyers currently being handed out in Toronto for their upcoming cultural event, we note that it clearly states on the flyer "presented by the Falun Dafa Association of Toronto". Nor would anyone reading the Epoch Times or watching New Tang Dynasty TV have any doubt about their religious views. The program seems to hold Falun Dafa to a much higher standard of transparency than it does for Mr Chau.
Finally, we are most disturbed with the attempt of this documentary to minimize or deny the extremity of persecution of Falun Dafa believers in China. Quoting Mr. Chau to make its conclusion, the program seeks to lead viewers to reject "the fabrication of the organ harvesting scandal". Simple logic would lead one to conclude that as China annually kills thousands of prisoners and sells their bodies or organs (a fact the documentary does not deny), the despised believers of this "evil cult" would become a particular target for this gruesome harvest. However, the documentary would lead one to conclude that while there is organ harvesting for profit, it doesn't happen to Falun Dafa believers in China's gulags.
The program quickly dismisses the report down by Kilgour and Matas as something done at the behest of Falun Dafa. It fails to note that the report carefully uses standard investigative and evidentiary procedures applied wherever direct eyewitness evidence is not possible, and comes to precise conclusions. It also states what kind of evidence would be necessary to disprove their conclusions, and notes that the Chinese regime has failed to provide this kind of simple evidence.
In presenting Amnesty International and the Laogai Foundation as rejecting the allegations made by Falun Dafa, the program also presents a major distortion. Amnesty does not reject or disbelieve these reports, but true to its own procedures it cannot confirm them with the kind of redundant and publicly verifiable evidence it demands to maintain its own reputation for absolute reliability.
The Laogai Foundation actually has a special box on its website about organ harvesting. That website currently carries in full a detailed report from the Weekly Standard ("China's Gruesome Harvest") providing further documentation of the selective targeting of Falun Dafa believers in China, based on interviews done in Thailand among other sources. So again, in presenting Harry Wu as rejecting these allegations rather than as stating that he is unable to directly verify them, the program has made a serious distortion which tends towards a kind of "holocaust denial".
In light of all these concerns we believe that the CBC has a responsibility to disassociate itself from this program, make a public correction, an appropriate reprimand of the reporter who made this program, and an apology to the Falun Dafa believers who were the subject of this kind of unethical journalism.
Michael Craig Michael Stainton
Chair, China Rights Network President
firstname.lastname@example.org Taiwanese Human Rights Association, Canada