Entries in Interviews Before Death (2)


China’s Death Row Reality Show Axed from Air

David J. Sams/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- The 40-million fans who have been faithfully tuning into China’s death row reality show, Interviews Before Execution, may have watched the last episode without knowing it.

Legal TV Channel, the station in central China’s Henan province that produced and broadcast the show for the last five years, confirmed to ABC News that it has been abruptly canceled due to “internal problems” and will not be seen again.

A spokesman at the station said that a new program on legal affairs will be broadcast in its place, but could provide no further details.  Requests for an interview with the host of Interviews Before Execution, Ding Yu, were denied.

The cancellation comes at the end of a week in which the show made international headlines for the first time.

Both the BBC and PBS International own the rights to a documentary film, Dead Men Talking, produced by a film company in China, which goes behind the scenes for an up close look at how the show is made.  BBC2 has plans to air the show next week.

Articles in the Daily Mail, New York Times, ABC News and numerous other outlets described the show as a one-of-a-kind reality series on a dark topic: death row inmates just before they die.

The host, journalist Ding Yu, interviewed more than 200 Chinese men and women, sometimes just hours before they were put to death.  The majority of convictions were for murder under often gruesome circumstances.

According to the Daily Mail, the show was approved by the government as a deterrent to would-be criminals.  Convicts were chosen by a judiciary committee for Ding for being “suitable subjects to educate the public.”

The show was not broadcast nationwide.  Few people know of it outside of Henan province in central China.

China is the only country that does not release the number of people executed each year, despite international calls to do so by groups such as Amnesty International.

It is estimated that about a thousand people are put to death each year.  That number cannot be confirmed, but puts China well ahead of any other country by far.  Fifty-five crimes are punishable by death there.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Death Row Interviews Attract 40 Million Viewers in China

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- While the rest of the world is watching what happens on American Idol, China has been watching what happens on death row.

For the last five years, a surprising show has been building a steady audience now estimated to be at 40 million viewers. Interviews Before Death is a government-approved television series hosted by a popular young journalist, Ding Yu.

Each week, Ding Yu goes into a prison to interview a man or a woman awaiting execution.  Some of her subjects have just hours left, others have days.  She speaks to them about the mundane facts of life on the inside as well as the gruesome details of the crimes that put them there. Their stories are broadcast in primetime in China’s central Henan province.

Now, the BBC and PBS are airing documentaries that go behind the scenes of filming and production.  The BBC2′s The Execution Factor will air Monday night and Dead Men Talking will be broadcast by PBS International. The latter was produced by the Chinese production company LIC.

PBS warns that the documentary is not for the faint-hearted.

“Almost all of the interviewees are perpetrators of horrific violent crimes, including a gay man who defiled his mother’s dead body after having murdered her; a group of career criminals that mistakenly kidnapped a young girl from a poor family but raped and killed her anyway; and a woman who burned her husband to death after having been physically abused for many years. The issues explored are both intriguing and complex. The subject is brutal and sad. One may even say the series itself is exploitative; however, it is Ding Yu’s passion for truth that is the driving force for the continued production of the series.”

The trailer indicates that emotions run high. Parents are seen saying goodbye to a son. Nearly half of the prisoners Ding Yu interviews are women and many are mothers.

The films also looks at the toll the series took on Ding Yu.  She has interviewed more than 200 men and women on death row.  She has said she pays an emotional price for her work, telling PBS, “I witness their thoughts before death.”

But she also comments freely, at one time coming face to face with a prisoner and telling him, “Fortunately, you are in jail. You are dangerous to society.”

The Chinese government reportedly approved the series on the argument it could be seen as a crime deterrent.  In China, according to the BBC, 55 crimes carry the death penalty.  They range from theft to murder.  Amnesty International believes China to be far and away the world leader in carrying out the death penalty.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio