LONDON—A former British Consulate employee in Hong Kong who says he was detained and tortured by Chinese police for information on protesters complained on Nov. 27 to UK regulators that China’s state TV channel aired his forced confession.
Simon Cheng also says in his complaint to communications regulator Ofcom that China Global Television Network, or CGTN, violated rules on fairness, impartiality and accuracy by broadcasting lies in an effort to hurt his credibility.
He said he was tortured by secret police in mainland China to glean information about massive pro-democracy protests roiling Hong Kong. Chinese police acknowledge he was held for 15 days in August but gave no reasons.
Cheng recounted his ordeal for the first time this month in a lengthy online statement and media interviews.
Shortly after he broke his silence, CGTN, the international arm of China Central Television, broadcast a report with Cheng purportedly confessing to soliciting prostitutes. Cheng pointed out in his filing that his voice is inaudible, the surveillance camera footage the channel used doesn’t back up the allegations, and it didn’t contact him for a response.
The channel is available on free and pay television channels in Britain.
Cheng, who no longer works for the consulate and is in hiding, got help filing the complaint from Safeguard Defenders, a group run by Swedish activist Peter Dahlin, who says he went through a similar experience after a crackdown on his China-based human rights group.
China Media Group, which controls CGTN and other state media, didn’t respond to a request for comment in Beijing. Neither did CGTN Europe managers contacted by email or through LinkedIn.
Ofcom, which has the power to issue big fines or revoke broadcast licenses, wouldn’t confirm it received the complaint.
Cheng worked as a trade officer to attract Chinese investment to Scotland and was returning from a business trip to mainland China when he says he was detained.
In his 14-page complaint made public on Thursday, he says he was shuttled between detention and interrogation centers while hooded and handcuffed, and interrogated while bound in a “tiger chair,” a metal seat with arm and leg locks. He says he was also shackled in a spread-eagle position for hours and forced to assume stress positions for lengthy periods.
Eventually, Cheng says he agreed to confess to the minor offense of soliciting prostitution to avoid harsher treatment and a heavy sentence on national security charges. He says his captors filmed him reading out two letters of repentance that they made him write, and then filmed him multiple times making his confession, based on a script they gave him.
“CGTN was well aware that the recording they used in their broadcast was extracted under extreme duress and distress,” Cheng said, adding that the broadcaster falsely said he went on trial, when in fact he was in extrajudicial “administrative detention.”
Cheng is the latest to turn to regulators with allegations of forced confessions on Chinese state TV. Peter Humphrey, a British corporate investigator imprisoned for two years in China, has filed an Ofcom complaint. So has Angela Gui, whose Hong Kong bookseller father turned up in detention in China. The cases are pending.
In 2012, Ofcom revoked Iranian state-owned Press TV’s license following a complaint by a journalist that the station aired an interview with him while he was detained.
By Kelvin Chan