Around 40 million viewers tune in each Saturday to watch Interviews Before Execution, where handcuffed murderers are asked anodyne questions about their favourite films and food, before being quizzed about their crimes.

The programme’s host, Ding Yu, promises to relay final messages to family members, who are usually not allowed to visit them on death row. The cameras keep rolling as the condemned confess their crimes beg for forgiveness, say a farewell message and are led away to be killed by firing squad or lethal injection.

Scenes from the series will be shown in Britain for the first time next week in a BBC 2 documentary. The BBC describes the Chinese series as an ‘extraordinary chat show’ which has made Ding a national celebrity.

Ding has covered more than 250 cases in Interviews Before Execution. She told a child killer: “Everyone should hate you.” Her interviewees also included a jealous divorcé who stabbed his ex-wife in front of her parents.

One man in his 20s, who stabbed his ex-wife in front of her parents, was filmed dropping to his knees before his mother and father. He begged: “Father, I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

As he was led away, his mother said: “Go peacefully. It’s following government orders.”


Officials in the ruling Communist Party regard the series as a propaganda tool to warn citizens of the  consequences of crime.

Inmates are selected for Ding by judiciary officials who pick out what they consider suitable cases to ‘educate the public’. So far, the show’s makers claim, only five condemned prisoners who were asked have refused to be interviewed.

Convicted criminals in China can be put to death for 55 capital crimes, ranging from theft to crimes against the state. However, the show focuses exclusively on murder cases, conspicuously avoiding any crimes that might have political elements.

Brits are already expressing their disproval ahead of the BBC documentary on Monday. Brian Cheung tweeted: “How does this woman live with herself?”

Picture: VodPod