The Chinese Communist Party-owned China Central Television (CCTV) has dominated the worldwide airwaves for Chinese speakers both in China and abroad. What gets reported is filtered heavily through state censors. The watchdog group Reporters Without Borders ranks China 248th on a list of 249 for press freedom. Taboo topics include human rights violations in China, the extensive slave-labor camps, corruption in government, and protests against the regime.
But now an upstart TV network founded by North American Chinese immigrants two years ago is challenging that monopoly, thriving even as they address those same taboo topics. The network, New Tang Dynasty, or NTD-TV, puts a spotlight on issues of freedom, peace and religious tolerance and their meteoric rise has given them a reach of 200 million households around the world. Their objective reporting and success constitute a significant threat to the Chinese communist party line, so much so that now numerous and credible reports indicate Chinese diplomats have intimidated and harassed the media upstart, attempting to silence their broadcasts and drive listeners away.
New Tang Dynasty reporters and camera people have been booted from Chinese government-sponsored and co-sponsored events in the U.S., including a SARS benefit event in New York City and a Chinese New Year Gala in Philadelphia last year. “I was kicked out of a public event organized by the City of Philadelphia,” said Lily Sun. “I’m not in China. The Liberty Bell is here. America was founded here.”
Chinese news agency Zhongguo Xinwen published a statement in Australia by a spokesman of the Chinese Consulate-General in Sydney who accused NTDTV of spreading “cult doctrine” and an “anti-China message.” The shrill message is ludicrous in light of New Tang’s extensive efforts to promote Chinese culture here around the world.
More recently, the Chinese Embassy in Toronto denied visas to two NTD staffers, who were accompanying Prime Minister Paul Martin on his trip to Asia.
Named for the dynasty considered to be “the most glorious era in Chinese history,” the Tang name was also chosen because of its evocation of themes of exploration, cultural exchange, and religious tolerance.
Established by veteran journalists, New Tang Dynasty also makes use of “volunteer reporters” in various cities who conduct on-location filming of interviews later woven into segments including news footage and reporting by established journalists.
Founder Hong Lee was motivated to start New Tang after hearing Chinese state-approved reporting on 9/11. Lee told the Guardian he heard “[A] totally different version of the story; the commentary was very sarcastic.” Employees also cite a general anti-American slant in Chinese media.
Reporters for NTD-TV have told their unique stories in interviews with think tanks and independent websites. One remembers her turning point: witnessing protesters die in Tiananmen Square in 1989, only to be told the next day by state-controlled media that no one had been killed. Other NTD reporters recall the disbelief of relatives when they tried to inform them of the dangers of the SARS virus early on. The Chinese government eventually admitted the existence of the disease.
Objective, dedicated, persevering and passionate, the New Tang Dynasty network represents one of the best hopes in the world for freeing the minds and lives of Chinese suffering from the oppressive hand and long reach of the communist state.