The lovely Ding Yu interviews a man about to die

Considering how fond so many Americans are of capital punishment (you know they’d bring their picnic baskets to public executions if they could, kids in tow to enjoy this family-friendly entertainment), I imagine this kind of show would have monster ratings here. Unfortunately, it’s been canceled in China. Can syndication on the new no-gays LOGO be far behind?

From The New York Times:

Until it was taken off the air last December, one of the most popular television programs in China’s Henan province, which has a population of 100 million, was “Interviews Before Execution.” The presenter was Ding Yu, a pretty young woman, always carefully dressed with colorful scarves and blouses; in each episode, she would interview on camera a condemned murderer who was about to face a firing squad or a lethal injection.

While Beijing has long been known for its use of capital punishment, the practice has usually been kept out of official media apart from exceptional cases. For some years, the Chinese government has been charged by Amnesty International and other human rights groups with having executed thousands of people—far more than all other countries combined, according to human rights groups. (Iran is a distant second, although with its far smaller population it has a higher per capita death rate, followed by Yemen and the United States.) There are 55 different crimes (recently reduced from 68), ranging from tax evasion to unspecified “crimes against the state,” that now qualify as capital offenses. The number of people executed for committing these crimes is a state secret.

With Ding Yu’s five years of interviews, however, capital punishment was brought directly into Chinese homes—and with government endorsement. As theBBC explained in its airing of a recent Chinese-made talk show about the program that will soon air on PBS, the channel on which it appeared is supervised by the state; the State Propaganda Department and the judges who handed down the sentences also had to approve each program. The interviews were launched in 2006, and there were over 200 in the program’s five-year run. Of the 55 capital crimes, Ding Yu chose only clear-cut cases of murder: out of over 200 condemned murderers only five refused to be interviewed. She claims most wanted to have their say. Her director says, smiling, “If you feed someone a banana, they will follow you.”

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