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China Blocks Some BBC TV Transmissions - 2002-07-05

China is blocking some of the British Broadcasting Corporation's television transmissions into China, possibly objecting to a story that aired on the news channel.

It appears the troubling story aired Sunday and was prepared by the BBC's Hong Kong office. It focused on the fifth anniversary of the return of the former British colony to Chinese rule.

The story included information about the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which Chinese officials call an evil cult that is a threat to order and stability. Falun Gong is a mix of slow-motion exercises and traditional Chinese beliefs. Some of its practitioners accuse China of torturing and killing Falun Gong members.

BBC journalists in China declined comment on the interruption of the TV signal. A statement from the network's London headquarters said China has not said precisely what prompted the cutoff.

The transmissions were cut from a Chinese-owned satellite that brings BBC news to expensive hotels and apartments that house mostly foreigners in China, perhaps 60,000 in all. The practical impact of the ban is limited because other satellites continue to transmit BBC TV news to much of its usual audience in China.

This is the first time China has cut off satellite TV transmissions by the highly respected broadcaster, though the ruling Communist Party works hard to control all news and information in the country.

China blocks access to foreign news on the Internet, sometimes jams foreign radio broadcasts, detains foreign journalists working on stories, and often intimidates the people they talk to.