With 40 mn viewers,death row TV a hit in China

People: Interviews Before Execution showed final moments of inmates; programme,meant to deter criminals,axed

Written by Agencies | Beijing | Published: March 13, 2012 12:38:56 am

In China’s Henan province millions of people have been tuning in every week to watch a talk show called Interviews Before Execution,in which a reporter interviews inmates on death row,media reports said. The show was abruptly axed Friday after mounting global pressure over the nature of its subject.

With a reported 40 million viewers tuning in Saturday nights to watch the final anguished moments of death-row prisoners and their families,the show’s success was nothing short of sensational. The programme was frequently rated one of Henan’s top 10 shows.

The host,journalist Ding Yu,interviewed over 200 Chinese men and women,sometimes just hours before they were put to death. The majority of convictions were for murder. According to the Daily Mail,the show was approved by the government as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

Every Monday,reporter Ding Yu and her team scoured court reports to find cases to cover on their programme,the BBC reported. To Western eyes the show’s format may seem exploitative,but Ding disagrees. The BBC quoted her saying,“Some viewers may consider it cruel to ask a criminal to do an interview when they are about to be executed. On the contrary,they want to be heard” . “Some criminals I interviewed told me: ‘I’m really very glad. I said so many things in my heart to you at this time. In prison,there was never a person I was willing to talk to about past events.’”

In China,55 crimes carry the death penalty,from murder,treason and armed rebellion to bribery and smuggling,the BBC reported. Prisoners in China can be executed seven days after they are sentenced.

The BBC said that the show had made Ding Yu a star,known to many as “Beauty with the Beasts”.

One case in particular stands out for Ding. The perpetrators were boyfriend and girlfriend — college graduates,she told the BBC. The couple planned to rob her grandparents but it went wrong and the young man,27-year-old Zhang Peng,ended up killing them both. “They are so young. They never had the chance to see this world,or to enjoy life,a career,work,and the love of family. They’ve made the wrong choice,and the price is their lives,” Ding said.

Interviews Before Execution was first broadcast on 18 November 2006 on Henan Legal Channel. Ding interviewed a prisoner every week until the sudden decision to cancel the programme.

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