A good attempt to reduce crime rate.
Unfortunately people seem to think it is an entertainment!
“In one scene, a prisoner in his 20s falls to his knees before his parents, who have been allowed to see him. He pleads: ‘Father, I was wrong. I’m sorry.’
Moments later, his parents see him about to be led away to his death. His distraught mother apologises for beating him once as a child and implores her son: ‘Go peacefully. It’s following government’s orders.’
Prison officers then push her aside and drag him away.
In another scene, a firing squad of about 20 men is briefed by a senior officer before executing condemned prisoners. ‘Some criminals will be very tough and difficult. That means they’ll be dangerous,’ the officer tells them.
Officials in the ruling Communist Party regard the series as a propaganda tool to warn citizens of the consequences of crime.
Inmates are selected for Ms Ding by judiciary officials who pick out what they consider suitable cases to ‘educate the public’. So far, the show’s makers claim, only five condemned prisoners who were asked have refused to be interviewed.
Convicted criminals in China can be put to death for 55 capital crimes, ranging from theft to crimes against the state. However, the show focuses exclusively on murder cases, conspicuously avoiding any crimes that might have political elements.
The case that has drawn the largest number of viewers so far is that of Bao Rongting, an openly gay man who was condemned to death for murdering his mother and then violating her dead body.
Three extra episodes were devoted to his story as viewing figures soared. Homosexuality is still regarded as taboo in most of China, and the sensational trailers described his interviews as ‘shining a light on a mysterious group of people in our country’.
When Bao was executed, no family members turned up to say farewell. His final conversation before being led to his death was on camera with a decidedly wary Ms Ding, who admitted to being unsettled by his sexuality. In a remarkable scene, he asks if she will do him a last favour by shaking his hand before he dies. She hesitates, before lightly touching his hand with her finger and then pulling it away.
She later confessed to being unsure if she should have shaken his hand, saying with obvious distaste: ‘There was a lot of dirt under his nails. For a long time there was a feeling in this finger. I can’t describe that feeling.’
The series has made a household name of Ms Ding, who is married and has a young son. She is often recognised in the street while doing her shopping with her family.
Denying her show is exploitative, she said: ‘Some viewers might 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.
‘When I am face-to-face with them I feel sorry and regretful for them. But I don’t sympathise with them, for they should pay a heavy price for their wrongdoing. They deserve it.’
However, she admits to being haunted by those she has interviewed. She once woke on a train in the middle of the night and, looking out of her window, saw a vision of the executed prisoners she had interviewed standing in a line beside her carriage.
‘Their faces were so real and all of them were standing there looking at me,’ she said. ‘I was horrified – I have heard so many cases. It is really not good for me at all. I have too much rubbish in my heart.’
Lu Peijin, the boss of TV Legal Channel in Henan province, said Ms Ding came up with the concept for the show and he agreed immediately, but that getting approval from officials was a long process.
‘I thought it was a great idea right away,’ said Mr Lu, who said that the stated aim of the show was not to entertain but to ‘inform and educate according to government policy’.
‘We want the audience to be warned,’ he said. ‘If they are warned, tragedies might be averted. That is good for society.’
Mr Lu said Ms Ding’s feminine image endears her to both audiences and the prisoners she interviews. ‘We say she is the beauty with the beasts,’ he said.
China is believed to kill more prisoners every year than the rest of the world combined, and the communist state has been widely criticised over its use of the death penalty.
There is no presumption of innocence under Chinese law. The condemned are often put to death as little as seven days after their convictions are confirmed by the Supreme Court.
The exact number of executions is a state secret, but it has been estimated that about 2,000 prisoners a year are executed in China, although rates are believed to have fallen in recent years.
Haunted: Miss Ding, who also conceived of the programme, has had visions of the executed people she has interviewed
China is concerned that the BBC documentary will damage the country’s image overseas and lead to fresh accusations of human rights abuses. Ms Ding and her colleagues have been banned from giving any further interviews.
Officials are particularly upset because next week’s BBC broadcast comes at a politically sensitive time – only days after China’s pseudo-parliament, the National People’s Congress, begins its annual session in the capital Beijing.
A Chinese TV executive who works on Interviews Before Execution said: ‘When the party officials realised the extent of the footage the BBC would use, they were very concerned about it.