The BBC airs an hour-long documentary tonight about "Interviews Before Execution," a hit talk show in China in which host Ding Yu interviews prisoners on death row. Some 40 million viewers in China tune in to the show each week.
Days, hours, or minutes before they are killed, the host talks inside prison to those who have been condemned to die. The BBC doc combines clips from the show with "never-before-seen footage of China's death row," and includes an interview with a local judge who questions the future of the death penalty in China.
More about the documentary, from the BBC website:
To Western eyes the show's format may seem exploitative, but Ding disagrees. "Some viewers may consider it cruel to ask a criminal to do an interview when they are about to be executed. On the contrary, they want to be heard," she says.
"Some criminals I interviewed told me: 'I'm really very glad. I said so many things in my heart to you at this time. In prison, there was never a person I was willing to talk to about past events.'"
Interviews Before Execution was first broadcast on 18 November 2006 on Henan Legal Channel, one of 3,000 state-owned TV stations in China. Ding interviewed a prisoner every week until the programme was taken off air.
Exactly how many prisoners are executed each year in China? No one seems to know, but the number is estimated to be in the thousands. According to a 2011 Amnesty International report, China is number one in kill count among nations that use capital punishment. The USA is also in the top five, but with a 2010 count of 46 executions—a long way off from the top contender. Regarding China's use of the death penalty, Amnesty reports that "Thousands are believed to be executed every year," but "Authorities remain highly secretive about its use."