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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
China blacks out BBC
Falun Gong members
Mention of the Falun Gong group upset authorities
Chinese authorities switched off a BBC satellite transmission after accusing the corporation of violating its contract about what it can broadcast.

It was severed following a news item that included material about Falun Gong, the outlawed spiritual group.

State-owned broadcaster China International Television Corporation, which is responsible for BBC programmes in China, said the satellite has been temporarily suspended because of content issues.

"BBC has violated the contract ... by broadcasting some content that is not allowed," said an unnamed official.

The switch-off has affected the Sinosat 1 satelite, which feeds up to 60,000 upmarket hotels and apartment blocks across the country which are used by foreigners.


The Chinese authorities are once again showing that to them freedom of expression just means favourable articles and reports

Reporters Without Borders

Two other satellites are continuing to feed the BBC into China, although Sinosat 1 is the only authorised BBC transmission.

The news item was included in a report marking the fifth anniversary of Britain's handover of Hong Kong to China.

'Cult'

The reporting of Falun Gong does not go down well with the government because it sees the group as a direct threat to stability and state control.

The Chinese Communist Party says Falun Gong is a dangerous cult that has caused the deaths of many hundreds of its followers.

But China International Television Corporation did not elaborate on what exactly had upset authorites, simply saying it "would not be appropriate" to discuss.

The State Administration of Radio, Television and Film, which oversees broadcasting in China, refused comment on the situation.

The BBC has been given no indication of when the official service may be reinstated.

Chinese television is completely state-owned, with the government keeping a close watch on all broadcasts.

Condemn

Foreign media are treated more leniently but the government still becomes riled if its boundaries are crossed.

All licensed foreign channels in the country have been ordered in recent months to broadcast through a state-owned satellite, allowing the government the power to switch them off on a whim.

French-based organisation Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres) has condemned China's actions, calling for the ban to be lifted.

"The Chinese authorities are once again showing that to them freedom of expression just means favourable articles and reports," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Menard in a letter to Chinese foreign affairs minister Tang Jiaxuan.


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