European Parliament Urges Broadcast of Independent Network into China

January 15, 2009 Updated: January 15, 2009

The European Parliament, one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world, is calling on satellite company Eutelsat to resume broadcast of an independent Chinese-language television network into communist-controlled China. The strong language directed at the private, France-based Eutelsat was officially approved by a majority of the 785 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) on Wednesday and is to be read by the EP President on Thursday.

Eutelsat terminated broadcast of the network, New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), into China in June, 2008, citing technical reasons. A July 10 investigative report by Reporters Without Borders revealed, however, that the broadcast cut was a premeditated act, owing to influence from the Chinese regime ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

The resolution urges the European Union’s 27 member states “to take necessary action to help restore NTDTV’s broadcasts to China and to support access to uncensored information for millions of Chinese citizens.”

It also “urges Eutelsat to resume NTDTV transmission to China without delay and to provide reasons for this suspension.” The document points out that “NTDTV is a non-profit television broadcaster and is the only independent Chinese-language television to broadcast into China since 2004.”

Amidst accusations that they caved to pressure from the Chinese communist regime, Eutelsat last month turned down an invitation to explain itself in front of the European Parliament.

Reports from Reporters Without Borders have shown that Eutelsat’s current claim that it does not have space on its W5 satellite for NTDTV is likely not accurate.

"There is plenty of spare capacity on Eutelsat's Satellite W5, particularly since the US Broadcast Board of Governors has withdrawn from it, for instance. Voice of America left Satellite W5 as of August 1, leaving excess capacity available,” said MEP Bart Staes. “The fact is, they're giving in to pressure from the Chinese communist regime.”

Eutelsat’s “credibility is at stake and we urge its shareholders to intervene as quickly as possible so that NTDTV can resume broadcasting on this satellite,” said Reporters Without Borders.

The resolution began as a declaration co-signed in October by MEPs Marco Cappato, Hanna Foltyn, Thomas Mann, Charles Tannock, and Helga Truepel, who come from the EP’s four major political groups. The number of signers snowballed to more than 400 on Jan. 14 automatically making it a resolution that has to be read by the EP President. The resolution amounts to a strong message to Eutelsat and a victory for China’s surging human rights movement.

MEPs have pointed out three areas of pressing concern for human rights in China, including the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual group and the suppression of rights in Tibet. The third area is the Chinese regime’s “organ harvesting,” the name for the fatal removal and sale of organs from death row prisoners and from Falun Gong practitioners held for their beliefs.

“The EU is based upon and defined by its adherence to principles of freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law,” reads the resolution.