Reporters Without Borders (RSF REPORTERS SANS
FRONTIERES) signalled to Jacques Chirac that a French
firm has sold China equipment to jam foreign broadcasts,
as the French president headed to Beijing with a large
business delegation for a 9-10 October visit.
The international press freedom organisation said it had
information that French company THALES had provided such
equipment to the Chinese government.
"It is regrettable that a French company is involved in
setting up a "great wall of sound" that violates the
right of free access to information for hundreds of
millions of people," it said.
ALLISS antennas, known for their efficiency and
sturdiness, set up by THALES particularly in the city of
Kashi, in the extreme north-west of the country, are
used to jam programmes from Norway-based Voice of Tibet,
BBC World Service, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.
This installation in an isolated border zone allows the
government to scramble long wave radio broadcasts by
international radio stations in Europe and Central Asia
very effectively indeed, it said.
There are understood to be around a dozen further sites
of the same type, including on Hainan Island in the
south, north of Nanjing in the east, at Urumqi,
north-west, and in Kunming in the south.
A THALES representative in China told RSF (Reporters
Without Borders) that there was nothing in the contracts
signed with the Chinese that specified the use of the
equipment. THALES sold equipment to the Chinese
authorities in 2001 and 2002.
Executives at the affected radio stations confirmed to
Reporters Without Borders that Beijing has since 2001
boosted its capacity to jam broadcasts. Radio Free Asia
for example has to broadcast on some dozen different
They are nevertheless jammed by a double effect : the
broadcast of a mix of thuds and music emanating from
long wave transmitters, with a range of around 2,000
kilometres and from local transmitters, sited around
five kilometres around major cities.
The French government should draw the attention of
national companies to the dangers of selling certain
equipment to the Chinese authorities, the organisation
It would be a shame if French firms became auxiliaries
of the Chinese Communist Party as in the case of Italian
Iveco vehicles, converted in China into mobile execution
chambers. The same applies to routers sold to Beijing
by Cisco to block thousands of websites and emails.
Although a member of the International Telecommunication
Union (ITU), China systematically refuses to respond to
complaints from the governments involved, as was the
case when British Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell
visited China in December 2003. Before him, the US
public body the International Broadcasting Bureau,
responsible for Radio Free Asia and Voice of America,
laid a complaint with the ITU, that was rejected
outright by Beijing.
UPDATE THALES 2005 Sept 26th:
SEP. 26 2005 French defense electronics group Thales SA
on Monday denied allegations from a sacked company
executive that it paid out millions of euros (dollars)
"The Thales Group formally denies accusations of
corruption in France and internationally, lodged against
it by a former manager" at Thales Engineering and
Consulting, the company said.
Michel Josserand, former chief executive of THEC,
claimed in an interview with newspaper Le Monde that the
paying of bribes by Thales was widespread -- in
violation of French law and international conventions.
"I estimate that Thales must pay out between 1 percent
and 2 percent of its global revenue in illegal
commissions," he said. Thales posted revenue of
euro10.3 billion (US$12.5 billion) for 2004.
He also alleged that Thales had "sidestepped the (U.N.)
Oil for Food Program and delivered chemical weapons to
Saddam Hussein's government."
Thales did not address the Iraq allegation specifically,
but said the group was taking advice on "the means of
taking legal action for defamation."
Josserand has also told police investigating Thales that
the company allegedly took part in the construction of
an Iraqi chemical weapons plant disguised as a baby milk
powder factory, Le Monde reported.
Paris prosecutors are investigating allegations of
corruption at Thales after irregularities surfaced in
the company's bid to build a tramway in the southern
French city of Nice.
Josserand, whose THEC division won the contract, was
fired by Thales and placed under formal investigation in
May after the group filed a criminal complaint against
its former employee.
"The group would like to point out that these
allegations have been made by a former manager of this
subsidiary, who was dismissed by the group for
irregularities committed as part of a contract for the
Nice tramway," Thales said.
"Furthermore, the group itself lodged a complaint
regarding corruption during this project."
Josserand, however, described himself as a scapegoat now
living in fear of his life.
He said he had informed police about bribes allegedly
paid out for contracts in Greece, Argentina, Asia and
elsewhere in France -- often via several foreign
intermediaries such as construction companies.
"Having said that, Thales was only following the
practices of the major U.S. companies," he claimed.
Thales had little choice but to pay bribes if it did not
want to be excluded from markets, he also claimed.
"In Russia, in a development aid deal, we were
threatened with a significant increase in sales tax," he
alleged. "In Cameroon, for a transport contract, we had
a tax investigation because we didn't pay enough."
end of quotes