HK documentary shows full face of Xinjiang and Xizang
‘Experiencing places firsthand’ best response to bias
Published: Nov 15, 2023 10:39 PM
Promotional material of <em><em>No Poverty Land</em>: A Vast Expanse</em> Photo: Courtesy of TVB

Promotional material of No Poverty Land: A Vast Expanse Photo: Courtesy of TVB

Documentary No Poverty Land: A Vast Expanse, which shows the full face of Northwest China's Xin-jiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, recently premiered on Hong Kong Television Broadcasting Company's (TVB) Jade Channel, bringing in impressive viewership numbers. 

The production team embarked on a groundbreaking journey, spending two months driving 14,000 kilometers to focus their lenses on Xinjiang and Xizang. They interacted with various minority ethnic groups, gaining insight into their current situation in education, healthcare, housing, population and employment.

Janis Chan, the TVB host who acts as a guide for audiences in the documentary, shared her unforgettable experience with the Global Times.

Recalling her excitement upon learning about the destinations, she revealed her eagerness to explore these two places in depth.

Chan used one word, "beautiful," to describe Xinjiang, and highlighted not only the region's scenic beauty but also the positive mind-set of the local people. She described local people's carefree dances and joyful songs after dinner, creating a natural and uplifting atmosphere. These moments were captured in the program, showcasing the beauty of their smiles against the backdrop of breathtaking landscapes.

Chan expressed pleasant surprise at Xinjiang's development. Starting the journey by flying from Hong Kong to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, she initially worried about forgetting essential items, only to discover that the city had everything one could need. 

Promotional material of <em><em>No Poverty Land</em>: A Vast Expanse</em> Photo: Courtesy of TVB

Promotional material of No Poverty Land: A Vast Expanse Photo: Courtesy of TVB

Venturing into the Kashgar Prefecture, near the Afghanistan border in China's westernmost region, the shooting team interviewed local minority groups and observed school activities. Chan said she was pleased to see the students' proficiency in English and listen to their dreams of continuing their education in big cities. 

In contrast to Xinjiang's liveliness, Xizang had a more mysterious aura for Chan, as she hadn't visited there before. The development and material sufficiency were evident, and locals exhibited spiritual richness and fulfillment.

Reminiscing about the journey in Xizang, Chan described a sense of tranquility and depth, which was challenging to put into words. Sitting quietly on the grasslands or strolling amid Xizang friends herding cattle, she felt like she was in a beautiful painting.

The team visited Medog, the last county to be connected by a road to the rest of China. While there, residents shared stories from the past when essential supplies arrived by a five-day mountainous journey and talked about how the road has greatly helped improve their standard of living. Chan sensed a deep appreciation for life and gratitude in their smiles, which made a profound impact on her.

"Driving down the roads, including the G318 National Highway from Southwest China's Sichuan Province to Xizang and Xinjiang's Duku Highway, namely Dushanzi to Kuqa section of G217 National Highway, was very unforgettable. None of them were easy to build. Driving all the way, in addition to enjoying the unique geographical environment, I could also feel the great effort of the crew who built the road," Chan recalled.

As a media person who has personally visited Xinjiang and Xizang, Chan said that "experiencing these places firsthand" is the best response to some of the biased views presented by certain overseas media outlets. The documentary aims to be the eyes of the audience, taking them on a journey to experience different cultures. Through dialogue, the team aims to provide a deep understanding of the authentic lives of the people in Xinjiang and Xizang.

"As documentary makers, we feel a sense of mission - to do justice to our interviewees and the era. This has been our goal all along," Chan said.

No Poverty Land: A Vast Expanse premiered on November 8 on TVB Jade, with subsequent updates every Thursday and Friday at 10:30 pm.

As the third season of TVB's hit documentary No Poverty Land series, the documentary so far has garnered a viewership rating of 15.9 points in its first week, with approximately 1.02 million viewers, a significant achievement in Hong Kong.

"There are more than 7 million people in Hong Kong, which is equivalent to 1 out of 7 people having watched our program, so I am still very happy with this result," Chan said, adding that she also got a lot of positive feedback on social media. As few people from Hong Kong had visited these places, they hoped the documentary would provide insight into these regions.

The satisfaction Chan derives from this journey scores a perfect 100. After the immense success and positive reviews of the first two seasons, many wondered if host Chan felt pressure for the third installment. She responded that the current challenge is to authentically present her 100 percent experience in the program, a task that requires daily brainstorming from the team.