The UK government may have been involved in canceling a BBC programme about forced organ harvesting in China, it was alleged on Wednesday.
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, chair of the China Tribunal—an independent people’s tribunal into forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China—said during a webinar that the UK government “walked into the BBC and asked them not to show” the programme.
“There may have been several reasons why that film was not shown, and has never been shown, but a component part was the British government, walked into the BBC and asked them not to show it.”
Professor Martin Elliott, member of the tribunal, corroborated Nice’s claim and mentioned it was the FCO—an abbreviation of the foreign office’s previous name, that did the asking.
“I was deeply shocked that the FCO could take that action, and pull something out of an apparently independent broadcasting organization,” Elliott said.
It was “a very scary step, and a similar form of behaviour to that which China itself had been carrying out, it was very deeply upsetting” to him, Elliott added.
According to Nice, the programme, meant to air on BBC’s Newsnight programme on June 17, 2019, is comprised of interviews of himself and Dr. Jacob Lavee from Israel. “Witnesses have been seen and filmed” in the programme as well.
The BBC said in an email to The Epoch Times that it is not aware of the programme.
June 17, 2019 was the day the tribunal delivered its judgment.
“Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale,” Nice read the judgement on that day.
Presenter of the webinar Tom Tugendhat MP was taken aback when he heard what the government was said to have done.
“That’s not something I was aware of,” he said, “so that’s a hell of a kicker at the end of a very interesting session.”
Several parliamentarians have brought up the findings of the China Tribunal in Parliament since it was published last year.
Baroness Northover on July 9 asked the government when it would sanction Chinese human rights violators, citing the oppression of the Uighurs, the destruction of human rights in Hong Kong, and the China Tribunal’s conclusion.
Most recently, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath mentioned the issue in the House of Lords on Oct. 28.
“Although Ministers have been personally sympathetic, so far the Government have relied on the World Health Organization’s view that China is implementing an ethical, voluntary organ transplant system,” he said in Parliament.
“I am afraid this is simply not credible; the fact is that it is based on a self-assessment by China, as became clear during my noble friend Lord Collins’s PQ on 29 June 2020,” he added. “The WHO has not carried out its own expert assessment of China’s organ transplant system, so I am afraid that the WHO cannot be considered reliable in this area. For me, the China Tribunal is persuasive on this point.”
Hunt said he was “surprised, shocked, and appalled” after hearing what Nice had said.
“I’m really surprised, shocked, and appalled at the thought of the Government seking [sic] to discourage the BBC from showing a programme about the China Tribunal,” he wrote in an email to NTD , an affiliate of The Epoch Times.
“The BBC should show it forthwith,” he added.
Asked why the government may have asked the BBC not to air the programme, Lord Alton of Liverpool, who has repeatedly voiced concern over human rights violations in China, said: “presumably wanting to ingratiate themselves to the PRC,” in an email to NTD.
The foreign office on Thursday denied the allegation.
“The UK Government could not, and would not, interfere with the BBC’s editorial independence. There is absolutely no truth in these allegations,” a spokesperson said in an email written to NTD.
“Any claims of organ harvesting are disturbing. The UK government has taken a leading role in holding China to account for its human rights abuses and Ministers raise our concerns regularly with their Chinese counterparts.”
Epoch Times reporter Cathy He and NTD reporters Jane Werrell and Neil Woodrow contributed to this report.
This report has been updated with a response from the Foreign Office on Nov. 5, 2020.