August 29, 2016 / 7:37 PM / a year ago

Chinese TV host accuses Canada tourism body of censorship

TORONTO, Aug 29 (Reuters) - A Chinese talk show host has accused a Canadian government-backed tourism organization of trying to censor discussion of the country’s aboriginal issues on his program and caused an episode to be dropped.

Gao Xiaosong, also the head of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s music division, made the accusation on his Weibo Chinese microblog on Saturday, two days before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embarked on his first official visit to China.

Gao wrote that he had interviewed a Canadian aboriginal chief for an episode of his show, “Xiaosong Pedia,” due to be shown last Friday on the online video site iQIYI.

The unnamed chief praised Trudeau’s and New Zealand’s approaches to aboriginals, but criticized Canada’s treatment of his people in the past, Gao wrote.

Gao wrote that tourism agency Destination Canada then applied pressure on iQIYI through a sponsor, asking for nearly half of what was at least a 40-minute episode to be cut.

Asked about the incident, Destination Canada said it has the right to “suggest changes” and make “recommendations to ensure a focus on Canadian tourism.”

Destination Canada’s relationship with Gao was not immediately clear. It said only that it engaged the travel site Ctrip.Com International Ltd to produce “four tourism videos” and the process involved an unidentified “production company.”

Gao, iQIYI and Ctrip did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Gao’s program bills itself as a weekly general interest talk show. It had 29 episodes this year, and at least one, uploaded on Aug. 19 and about the city of Vancouver, appeared to have been shot in Canada.

Gao did not give details on what ensued after Destination Canada’s request, writing only that his contract with iQIYI requires consent from both parties to broadcast an episode, and that he does not compromise on such matters.

“Speaking the truth is Xiaosong’s fundamental value,” he wrote, referencing a Chinese saying, “Better to be broken jade than whole pottery.”

Trudeau’s Liberal party came to power last November promising to rebuild ties with Canada’s 1.4 million aboriginal people, who on average suffer from higher rates of crime, poverty and addiction.

In an email-chain screenshot posted by Gao, a Destination Canada official, whose name had been redacted, wrote in red typeface that episode brought up an “unpleasant past” and such content “definitely cannot appear.”

Gao wrote that the email was “full of discrimination and arrogance.” (Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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