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China’s Death Row TV – Education or Entertainment?

On the show Interviews Before Execution, interviewer Ding Yu sits down with a convicted murderer and gives the death row inmate one last interview before his/her execution.  She did this once a week for five years on a Chinese state television network! I was shocked to hear there could be such a  show on television.

The premise seems grotesque if not a little disturbing but the more I thought about it the more I began to understand the possible implications. I hate to dumb it down to this level, but I relate it to our somewhat terrible reality shows in the United States. While the subject matter in The Jersey Shore and The Real World is not as serious as convicted murders, the viewers take away knowledge and understanding of another person’s life and culture. Living in a place with limited diversity such as Montana, learning about foreign ideas is important. That’s where I can instill value in a show that interviews members of death row. It’s a dark side of society that usually remains hidden from the public. Can we learn from such a show as Interviews Before Execution? Or is it too revealing even for China?

The BBC has made a documentary about Interviews Before Execution that will air this week. Coincidentally, the Chinese show was abruptly cancelled just last week. I’m hoping this documentary will answer a few of my many questions.

Would pe0ple literally kill to be on the show? If I were the producer of the show, I would be afraid that people would go out to commit a violent murder with hopes of getting an interview seen by millions.

Did it decrease the number of homicides?

Did interviewees plead their innocence to the public?

How did they pick who to interview?

What was the creator’s aim when creating the show?

China executes more people each year than the entire world combined. Although, the show only interviewed murderers, there are 55 crimes that a person can be executed for in China. China refuses to report the actual number of executions, but the number is believed to be in  the thousands. This is a huge concern because China is also very prolific for harvesting organs, as explained in the video below.

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The BBC documentary will air on BBC on March 12th and later on PBS International. I hope to watch the documentary this week and offer my recommendation so stay tuned!



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