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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 09:37 GMT
China Week concerns answered
Was China Week just a propaganda piece for a "corrupt regime", as a small section of BBC users have argued? Or was it an in-depth look into what impact the country is set to have on the world?

Red flags flutter on Tiananmen Square
Some people said China Week was nothing more than propaganda

China Week aimed to explain to audiences across the BBC's news platforms - TV, radio and online - how China is changing and what impact it will have on the world.

Before it started, deputy director of BBC News Adrian Van Klaveren said: "We will be reporting from many different parts of the country with live programmes, discussions and insights into what life in China in 2005 is really like."

However, Shella Davis, of Brighton, was one of several people unimpressed by the coverage.

Like many, she claimed that BBC News put a positive spin on China and ignored issues such as human rights, torture, Tibet, the lack of democracy and freedom of speech.

She e-mailed: "I am disgusted and very disillusioned - what hope is there for any of us campaigning for human rights if your alleged journalists are prepared to capitulate to the Chinese authorities' official tour in this way?"

And Andy Gibbs said: "I find it rather ironic that, in the week which has seen the 46th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against the illegal Chinese occupation... so little mention is made of the appalling human rights record of the Chinese regime."

Elections 'a sham'

In response, one of the producers behind China Week appeared on the NewsWatch programme to answer criticism.

Peter Leng, the BBC's Asia producer, travelled around China putting together reports for BBC news bulletins.

I feel we were as impartial and balanced as we could be
Peter Leng, BBC Asia producer

He said: "We tried to take head on a lot of the issues. A series of reports on the Six and Ten O'Clock News tried to look at the issues of freedom, for instance.

"China will make claims that there is democracy, that they have elections at village level, so we went to test that idea.

"We were taken in a five black car convoy, we were greeted by 13 Communist Party officials and shown round this village where we found no evidence of candidates, posters, no evidence of the paraphernalia that we would expect.

"We told it as it was. I would hope that that report showed you that to go and see democracy in China you have to do it with the Communist Party showing you what's there."

Leng continued: "Also in that report, we did manage to slip away from our government minders and speak to one particular democracy activist who told us 'I have been elected before. From the inside I can tell you these elections are a sham'."

"If you look at China Week across the week as a whole, the BBC is trying to take these issues head on."

Compromise 'of sorts'

He said the Question Time programme broadcast from Shanghai had been particularly problematic: "There were questions about how much the Chinese would allow us to choose the audience, to choose the panel."

It had been a struggle, he said, "to talk about what we wanted to talk about, to have an audience that was a freely chosen audience able to put the questions it wanted to raise without the Chinese saying these issues cannot be addressed".

And he admitted that "a compromise of sorts had to be made - there was a point at which that programme was not going to happen".

And he acknowledged that there had been criticism of some economic reports which viewers felt painted a rosy picture.

"When we went to Shanghai we had to say China is changing, look at these huge luxury mansions. But we went to the slum area where people are living in abject poverty to make the point there is no social security in China, there are no independent free trade unions in China."

China Week praise

China Week was designed to look at issues over seven days on three platforms, which meant "not every single issue can be raised in each of these programmes".

Leng summed up: "I feel we were as impartial and balanced as we could be."

And it should be pointed out that many audience members wrote in to say how much they enjoyed China Week.

Marc from Singapore said: "I applaud BBC World Service's China Season, it is brilliantly executed (as only the BBC can) with its breadth of coverage of all aspects of life."

And Tony Lamb, from Lancashire, said: "Sincere congratulations to the BBC and its Question Time producers. The superbly balanced panel and its attentive audience produced a fascinating exploration of China-related issues and their universal significance."



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