Tell PBS: Liberate the Film About China's War on Poverty!

PBS has taken down Voices from the Frontline: China’s War on Poverty, a documentary directed by award-winning Peter Getzels, co-produced by PBS-SoCal with a foundation led by Robert Lawrence Kuhn. PBS is depriving its viewers of opportunities for learning about collective harmony and equality by censoring this documentary and its insight into China's life-saving policies, which took 100 million citizens out of extreme poverty. Tell PBS to liberate the documentary about China! Stop censoring the truth!

Dear PBS, 

In 2019, Dr. Kuhn, a trusted expert on China, worked with award-winning director Peter Getzels to journey across China and document the methods used to bring over 100 million people out of extreme poverty. The film was an exemplary piece of video journalism meant to spread knowledge and awareness of China’s unprecedented accomplishments alleviating poverty. Not only that, but the film marked a beautiful moment of people to people dialogue, displaying the human benefits of local, bottom-up methodologies. 

I am appalled by your continued censorship of this innovative documentary and the divergence from your claim that you are a 'Trusted Window to the World.’ Not only are you stifling the truth, but you have taken away easy access to learning about potential solutions to global poverty. Your censorship in no way “serves the American public [by] using media to educate, inspire, entertain, and express a diversity of perspectives.” It is clear from your actions that you do not care for displaying a diversity of perspectives, and only those that suit your agenda. 

Voices from the Frontline: China’s War on Poverty not only offers an insider look at successful localized poverty alleviation, but it allows a deeper, more insightful look into China, a country that has been widely demonized in the public eye. Censoring the documentary only serves those wanting to escalate divisions between the US and China. This is especially dangerous during a time in which Asian American hate crimes have been on the rise. In response to your censorship, Dr. Kuhn stated that he had “absolute, unambiguous control” over the film and that “one of the things (he) wanted this film to do was to undermine the stereotype of China as a ruthless giant out to dominate the world. It’s just not the case.”

The US is currently undergoing an economic recession. Many people can not afford basic amenities, like food and rent. Meanwhile, global poverty around the world continues to persist at staggeringly high rates. We, as a global community, need access to all possible tools so we can examine the poverty issue with the greatest amount of clarity. 

As it stands, we have bigger, more globally catastrophic issues to contend with. The threat of climate change lingers on the horizon. If we are truly to find our way to an environmentally safe and sustainable existence, we cannot do it alone. The US and China must work together to save our planet. This cannot be done if our trusted news sources only seek to sow fear and division. This cannot be done if any positive documentation of China is censored and hidden away. This cannot be done unless we stand for truth rather than cower behind nationalistic discontempt. We call on you to reinstate Dr. Kuhn’s documentary in order to begin fostering an honest, rational, and respectful understanding of China by your viewers. 

In an article addressing why the documentary was taken down, the conservative publication The Daily Caller reported it to be “pro-Beijing.” Why is telling the truth about how China was able to lift so many people out of poverty controversial? If we cannot share the truth about the world, we cannot live in collective peace, equality, and harmony. Does PBS side with the truth or with those who own The Daily Caller who drive nothing but hate? By censoring Voices From the Frontline: China’s War on Poverty, you are depriving the public of the opportunity for education about policies that have changed lives. Right now, amidst an increasingly dangerous climate crisis and high poverty rates, we need understanding and cooperation. We must stop the growing aggression towards China, which is stoking a dangerous arms race that could end in nuclear catastrophe.

It is stated on PBS’ Mission & Values page that you provide “documentaries that open up new worlds [and] non commercialized news programs that keep citizens informed on world events and cultures.” Not only are you violating your own values by censoring this important documentary, but you are participating in allowing hate and misinformation to flourish during one of the most heightened climates of anti-Asian rhetoric and violence in recent U.S. history. The U.S. and China need to cooperate for the good of peace and the planet. Liberate Robert Kuhn’s documentary and be a force for peace and cooperation. China Is Not Our Enemy! 

For peace, truth, and global cooperation,

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