/ 5 July 2005

We interrupt this broadcast …

China’s state television broadcasts were interrupted for nearly 15 minutes by a video about the banned Falun Gong spiritual group, a spokesperson for a Hong Kong-based satellite company said Tuesday.

Falun Gong — which China has labeled an ”evil cult” and tried to suppress — denied tampering with the programming beamed across the country.

The interference occurred on signals from the APSTAR 6 satellite on Sunday evening, and affected 25 channels — 13 belonging to state-run CCTV and 12 provincial or city channels, said spokesperson Brian Lo for Hong Kong-based APT Satellite Holdings, which operates the satellite.

Lo declined to describe the inserted footage in detail, but said that whoever was responsible had tried to jam the satellite’s signals for an hour but only managed to insert 14-and-a-half minutes of video, Lo said.

He said the interrupted programming was beamed to the financial capital of Shanghai and the southern boomtown of Shenzhen. Other provinces and regions affected included Guangdong, Hunan and Yunnan in the south; Inner Mongolia and Ningxia in the north and Zhejiang on the east coast.

Lo said his company hasn’t been able to trace the jamming signal and had reported the matter to Hong Kong’s police and telecommunications authority. Police did not immediately comment.

Spokesperson Diana Fu of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority said the department will study whether there are anti-jamming measures it can recommend to APT.

A Hong Kong-based spokesperson for Falun Gong, which mixes slow-motion exercise and Buddhist and Taoist teachings, denied the group was behind the satellite jamming, saying it doesn’t have the resources to do it.

”I don’t think it’s something … we can do because we’re just ordinary volunteers,” Sophie Xiao said. She characterised the allegations as a smear campaign against the spiritual group.

In the past, Falun Gong has been accused of interrupting satellite signals beamed to mainland China.

The group remains legal in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, a former British colony that is promised Western-style liberties such as freedom of expression.

However, Beijing has arrested hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Falun Gong followers in its crackdown. The group has alleged that some have been tortured, though China has denied the allegations.

Hong Kong and New York-listed APT’s shareholders include China Telecommunications Broadcast Satellite, China Aerospace Science & Technology and CASIL Satellite Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Aerospace International Holdings. – Sapa-AP