The 40-million fans who have been faithfully tuning into China’s death row reality show, “Interviews Before Execution” may have watched the last episode without knowing it.
Legal TV Channel, the station in central China’s Henan province that produced and broadcast the show for the last five years, confirmed to ABC News it has been abruptly canceled due to “internal problems” and will not be seen again.
A spokesman at the station said that a new program on legal affairs will be broadcast in its place but could provide no further details. Requests for an interview with the host of “Interviews Before Execution” Ding Yu, were denied.
The cancellation comes at the end of a week in which the show made international headlines for the first time.
Both the BBC and PBS International own the rights to a documentary film, “Dead Men Talking,” produced by a film company in China which goes behind the scenes for an up close look at how the show is made.
BBC2 has plans to air the show next week.
Articles in the Daily Mail, New York Times, ABC News and numerous other outlets described the show as a one of a kind reality series on a dark topic: death row inmates just before they die.
The host, journalist Ding Yu, interviewed more than 200 Chinese men and women, sometimes just hours before they were put to death. The majority of convictions were for murder under often gruesome circumstances.
In clips found online (many of which were taken down this week) Ding interviews a child-killer and a man who stabbed his ex-wife in front of her parents. Another killed a mother and child with an ax.
At times she promises to convey final messages to family members. At other times she is harsh, telling one subject that he deserves to die.
According to the Daily Mail, the show was approved by the government as a deterrent to would-be criminals.
Convicts were chosen by a judiciary committee for Ding for being “suitable subjects to educate the public.”
Ding herself is a subject in the documentary and for the first time she speaks about the toll her work takes on her and describes the haunting images she lives with as a result of spending so much time with the men and women she interviews.
The show was not broadcast nationwide.
Few people know of it outside of Henan province in central China.
In China, 55 crimes are punishable by death.
China is the only country that does not release the number of people executed each year, despite international calls to do so by groups such as Amnesty International.
It is estimated that about a thousand people are put to death each year. That number cannot be confirmed but puts China well ahead of any other country by far.
Fan Bing contributed to this report.