Chinese TV employees suspended following Tiananmen broadcast

by Andy Sennitt

Several staff at a Chinese television station were suspended from their jobs after footage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests slipped past censors and was broadcast to the public, a human rights group said today.

Chinese media outlets are barred from mentioning the crackdown around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that killed hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators. But a cable television operator in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou allowed around 10 seconds of sensitive footage from a Hong Kong broadcaster to slip into a Chinese public broadcast on the evening of 5 June.

A local journalist who watched the broadcast said the image of a lone man blocking a line of tanks just off Tiananmen Square in 1989 was shown, as well as footage of 150,000 people at a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on the evening of June 4 this year to mark the 20th anniversary of the crackdown. “They weren’t able to cut it in time that day,” he said.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement that five staff of the television station including two editors were “suspended” after an investigation by Guangzhou’s propaganda department.

A source with direct knowledge of the matter said no staff had been fired, but a supervisor monitoring broadcasts at the television station had been removed from his post. A spokesman at Guangdong’s Radio, Film & TV Administration said he had not heard of the incident.

China’s Guangdong province is able to receive television and radio broadcasts from neighbouring Hong Kong, but all content is closely monitored and censored by authorities. Broadcasts are delayed by around 30 seconds, and when politically sensitive content appears on-air, advertisements or other neutral footage are flashed on the screen.