British regulators on Thursday fined a Chinese state-owned broadcaster, which has already had its licence revoked, £200,000 (HK$2.1 million) for failing to comply with fairness and privacy rules.
Media regulator Ofcom said it had fined Star China Media Limited a total of £200,000 (HK$2.1 million) “for serious breaches of our fairness and privacy rules on its CCTV and CGTN services.”
The complaints involve two high-profile Hong Kong dissidents, Simon Cheng and Gui Minhai.
Gui Minhai, known for publishing gossipy titles in Hong Kong about Chinese political leaders, disappeared while on holiday in Thailand in 2015 and resurfaced in China, where he served two years in prison.
A few months after his October 2017 release he was again arrested, this time while on a train to Beijing with Swedish diplomats.
He was hit with a 10-year jail term earlier this year on charges of illegally providing intelligence abroad.
CCTV News show News Desk aired footage of Gui appearing to express regret over the drink-driving charges for which he was initially imprisoned.
He complains that he was “forced into taking part in the interviews in circumstances where he was being held incommunicado.”
Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen, disappeared while on a 2019 business trip to the neighbouring Chinese city of Shenzhen.
He said he was tortured and interrogated by Chinese secret police while he was detained there for 15 days.
Chinese police said Cheng had been detained for “soliciting prostitutes,” and CGTN published a video purporting to show him confessing.
Ofcom upheld the two complaints “after we found the individuals concerned were unfairly treated and had their privacy unwarrantably infringed.”
CGTN “failed to obtain their informed consent to be interviewed” and did not air “material facts which cast serious doubt on the reliability of their alleged confessions,” said the regulator.
“Given the seriousness of these breaches, we have imposed two financial penalties of £100,000 (HK$1.1 million).”
The licence for the CGTN service was held by Star China Media Limited until February 4, 2021, when it was revoked by Ofcom.
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