Breaking China

The Eye
Latest posts by The Eye (see all)
‘At least I haven’t been told what to write by the state in this story…’

After a 23 year career with The BBC, and 38 years in journalism, (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), here our Editor Phil Parry, explains why he has informed a Chinese state media organisation that he will no longer contribute to their programmes, as a report last month outlined how media freedom in the country was declining at ‘breakneck speed’.

Earlier he has described how he was assisted in breaking into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and made clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.

Phil, here on BBC Cymru Wales Today in 1988, always knew how important it was to be free to talk to people

He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off

Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.


He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the current coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdownis playing havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.


For some time I have been used as a political pundit on  World Today (CGTN Radio – a Chinese station), but I have now informed them:  ‘As you are state-run (they call it state-‘affiliated’), and, as I have written about on my website, I believe in media freedom, I no longer wish to contribute to ANY of your programmes’.

The Foreign Correspondents Club does not like what is happening in China

This message to CGTN is unlikely to be seen as an intended Valentine’s Day present, because it came days before a report by the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) of China which highlighted the truth about what is happening in the country.

The report in January, said that journalists there faced physical assault, hacking, online trolling and visa denials, as media freedom in China declined at a “breakneck speed”.

Local journalists in mainland China and Hong Kong are also being targeted, while the authorities have labelled the FCC an “illegal organisation”.

China’s premier Xi Jinping tells his country what to do

This term appears to be being bandied around willy-nilly, as President Xi Jinping exerts ever greater control in China, and journalists attempt to report facts, for example about the persecution of the mostly-Muslim Uyghur people in the north-western region of Xinjiang. 

Human rights groups believe China has detained more than one million Uyghurs against their will over the past few years, in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps”, and that it has sentenced hundreds of thousands of them to prison terms.

Their reports are different to those in the West

There is also evidence that Uyghurs are being used as slave labour, and of women being forcibly sterilised, as well as some former camp detainees alleging that they have been tortured and sexually abused.

Two recent books have laid bare in horrifying detail what is happening inside China.

In ‘In The Camps’ by Darren Byler, it is described how facial recognition and high-technologuy surveillance, make resistance impossible.

Gulbahar Haitiwaji survived torture by Chinese officials

The accounts from Gulbahar Haitiwaji in ‘How I Survived a Chinese ‘Reeducation’ Camp’ are just as disturbing.

Internees are forced to stand motionless for hours, sit on plastic stools, day in day out, until their intestines prolapse, and are told to sing patriotic songs, giving thanks to Mr Jinping.

“We were eternal victims, bowed under the weight of threats”, says Ms Haitiwaji.

The Editor of Private Eye Ian Hislop – his magazine has poked fun at China

In the knowledge that satire can on occasions tell truths, better than factual items like this, China has, too, become the butt of jokes in the UK satirical magazine Private Eye.

Under the headline: “CHINA INSISTS ON NEW ENDING FOR FIGHT CLUB”, a humorous, but perhaps telling, item said: “Brad Pitt’s famous slogan has now become the first rule of Fight Club is don’t fight China, because you’ll lose and be locked up.

“The second rule is now: “‘Don’t talk about Fight Club or you’ll be run over by a tank’.

“The third rule of Fight Club is ‘Obey our Great Leader, President Xi, as he leads us to ever greater freedoms through his Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”

A joke was made about a changed film ending

CGTN, however, have a slightly different view of events surrounding the Uyghurs.

Their journalists have ‘reported’ that: Some anti-China forces in the West, including the United States, have concocted and disseminated plenty of false information about China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

“Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion at all, but about combating violent terrorism and separatism. The Chinese government has launched anti-terrorism and deradicalization efforts in Xinjiang in accordance with the law to protect people’s lives, which has garnered ardent support of people from all ethnic groups.

There is evidence that the Uyghurs are facing torture, rape, and mass sterilisation

“People in the region continue to embrace peace and prosperity and Xinjiang society continues to develop steadily. These facts are the most powerful tool to debunk lies on Xinjiang”.

Yet last year Ofcom said the company which possesses the UK licence for CGTN is not actually in charge, which is against its rules.

It seemed that Star China Media Limited (SCML), which owns the licence for CGTN, “did not have editorial responsibility”.

This judgement was made after accusations that CGTN repeatedly breached impartiality rules and aired forced confessions.

Peter Dahlin thought CGTN (Star China Media) should have its licence revoked

Ofcom had also received a complaint stating that CGTN should not be allowed to broadcast at all because it was effectively controlled by the Communist party.

The director of human rights group Safeguard Defenders, Peter Dahlin, said: “The best way forward is to revoke their (CGTN/SCML) licence to teach them that this is unacceptable”.

China is stamping down hard on media freedom

This has come after many years, during which worrying news has been revealed about what is happening inside China.

10 years ago the FCC was forced to issue a warning to its members after three employees of European media companies were attacked.

The reporters for the companies were covering land rights protests in the village of Panhe, in the eastern Zhejiang province, and during one incident, a French reporter had his car rammed, while a group of men beat up his Chinese assistant.

The Chinese military are used to attack protesters

In another, a Dutch correspondent was attacked by men who appeared to be plain-clothes police.

It’s more recent controversies like these that have prompted my stern message to CGTN that I no longer wanted to appear on their programmes, and the alarming FCC report, which stated that media freedom in China was declining at “breakneck speed”


Book posterThe memories of Phil’s decades long award-winning career in journalism (when media freedom was all-important) as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!

Publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.

Tomorrow – the senior executives in Wales who earn over £200,000 a year and have been named as “The best paid officials in the nation”, yet The Eye revealed that their institutions are engulfed in controversy.