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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 16:21 GMT
Chinese audience joins TV debate
The Question Time audience in Shanghai
BBC Television's Question Time staged a ground-breaking political discussion programme in China.

The audience in Shanghai were able to interact with a panel including a government spokesman as well as critical voices.

The debate covered subjects including human rights in China and the possible development of democracy in Hong Kong.

The programme was recorded just hours after the resignation of Hong Kong's leader Tung Chee-hwa.

The programme was fed live to London for broadcast without any editing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Tung Chee Hwa's successor would be appointed in accordance with the wishes of the people of Hong Kong. He said democracy would be in place in due time but that it would be a gradual process.

Former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten told the Question Time audience it was ironic that the man likely to get the job is Donald Tsang, who is also the man who would probably win any election.

He said Britain should have introduced democracy in Hong Kong back in the 40s or 50s as in other parts of the former British Empire.

Human rights

The panel were asked if they accepted recent criticism of China's human rights records.

Liu Jianchao said there was freedom of expression in China and that he did not believe people were tortured or killed for free expression. "Torture in prison is completely banned by Chinese law. If anyone is detected, they will be punished" he said.

Chris Patten, David Dimbleby and Liu Jianchao
Hong Kong business man, David Tang said he came across the issue of human rights whenever he travelled abroad.

"A lot of foreigners accuse my country of abusing human rights in this country", he said, "Whenever that is raised, I am ashamed."

"I just hope that the government would do something about it", he added, "not only in China, but everywhere in the world."

Audience reaction

I can't imagine this kind of programme happening five or 10 years ago
Audience member, Li Feng Duan
Shanghai residents as well as Western expatriates were able to apply for tickets for the recording from the BBC. The audience also included a number of academics and government officials suggested by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

"I can't imagine this kind of programme happening five or 10 years ago" said Li Feng Duan, an IT Account manager who was in the live studio audience and hoped a similar programme could be made in China.

He felt the programme helped show up cultural differences between China and the West and that the range of views on offer would also be of interest to people watching outside China.

Yu Jing Wei, a project manager with an industrial trading firm said he thought the programme was fantastic and could be a favourite in China. But Vivienne Sheng, who works in recruitment was not so sure. She felt there was too much politics and not enough about issues of concern to ordinary people.

Also on the panel were Long Yongtu who led China's successful negotitations to join the World Trade Organisation and writer and broadcaster Isabel Hilton.

The special edition of Question Time is part of the BBC's China Week, a themed week of news reports and programmes.

Question Time in China was broadcast on Thursday 10 March on BBC One at 2235 GMT and on BBC World on Saturday 12 March.



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