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53 China intellectuals’ open letter on the disputes of Deutsche Welle’s China Section

Posted by Author on November 11, 2008

53 Chinese intellectuals, via The Epochtimes, Nov. 10, 2008-

To Deutsche Welle
To The German Bundestag,
To the National Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany
To the Sinologists and China Experts in Europe

Dear Madams and Sirs,

We, the undersigned, have observed that 49 European Sinologists, China experts and other significant individuals published an open letter dismissing the head of Deutsche Welle’s China Section (e.g. summarized in a report at online web of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of Chinese Communist Party, http://world.people.com.cn/GB/14549/8155375.html). Since the subject of that letter is related to the debates on China’s past and current situations, we, Chinese civilians, particularly the intellectuals residing in China, have felt that it is our duty to make our positions known about the relevant issues raised by that letter.

1) We consider that the decision Deutsche Welle (DW) has made on a former head of its China Section is an internal administrative matter, and so it is not suitable for the outsiders to interfere with it as most of them lack the comprehensive knowledge of the relevant circumstances. We respect DW’s decision, and even more appreciate its proclaimation “to uphold the values of freedom, democracy and human rights to which DW has adhered.” We expect that DW can continue to abide by this pledge.

2) We oppose the irresponsible speeches on China’s human rights situations made by the former head of DW’s China Section. For instance, she claimed, “The Communist Party of China has made a greater contribution to the practice of Article Three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights than any of other political forces in the world.” She also quoted an appraisal by the Beijing correspondent of Zeit as “Getting 400 million Chinese people to shake off the shackles of poverty over last 30 years is one of the greatest improvements in human rights in the recent years.” We hold that these appraisals were based solely on China’s governmental propaganda with no foundation of factual statistics that could be verified by any independent journalists or scholars. In other words, this journalist simply took this propaganda and printed it as if it were her own opinion, clearly lacking the professional integrity her profession requires. However, we also maintain that such speeches, although absurd, are still within the scope of freedom of speech, and appreciate that neither DW nor another institution has done anything to deprive anyone from his or her right to that freedom. Therefore, the belief that “[we] must firmly strike back to protect them” in that letter by the 49 individuals listed above was obviously exaggerated and misleading.

3) That letter considered, “this discussion as a part of the debate of how to judge China’s current development and rise.” This is correct. We expect that such a debate raised in that letter may have a chance to be freely discussed inside China without being suppressed. We further wish that the cosigners of that letter will make some efforts through their reputation and influence to promote such a free discussion in China as well.

However, we are most disappointed that we have seen that this letter has only complained about the removal of someone from leadership of DW’s China section. Those who had received “Cooperative Partnership” with Chinese authorities have not appealed for Chinese people who are persecuted for their speech in China. But do those who talked about issues the Chinese government approves of need protection, while others who criticized the regime be denied protection? Is the latter’s freedom of speech insignificant?

Just a few examples are presented here.

It has been almost 20 years since the June 4th Massacre in 1989. Discussions on this topic have so far been forbidden in speeches given in China. For the 49 co-signers, do you consider it necessary to have a cosigned letter to call for the protection of those who want to breach this forbidden area? We have found that there is a cosigner (Reimund Seidelmann, Universität Gießen) engaged in the study of international politics who has been noted as an Honorary Professor at China’s People University (CPU) in Beijing. We would like to ask him whether or not he has heard of Professor Ding Zilin, another of the cosigners of this letter, at the same university. Her son was innocently killed during the Massacre. On behalf of Tiananmen Mothers (mothers of those died at the June 4th Massacre), she has painfully struggled for justice for nearly 20 years, but her right to freedom of expression within China has been completely deprived. In China, her voice has been intentionally silenced, her book has been prohibited from publication or circulation, and even her personal freedom has been deprived. Should Prof. Seidelmann be reminded of Professor Ding when he’s honored by the CPU administration? Will he do anything to protect her when her civil rights are violated by injustice? Is he ready to strike against Chinese government’s violation of her rights?

Another cosigner of this letter is Mr. Bao Tong who should be familiar to the China experts. Please ask him whether he has any freedom of expression in China. Is his name able to appear on any of domestic media in China? After seven years in prison, he has supposedly resumed his citizenship for more than 10 years but his personal freedom has still been illegally deprived, not to mention his freedom of speech. Have the 49 co-signers ever thought to protect him, or to strike against Chinese authorities’ violation of Mr. Bao’s civil rights?

There is also Mr. Shi Tao, a journalist and poet serving a 10-year sentence.  At least those who have a “Cooperative Partnership” with Chinese authorities should know that this is one of the many cases of how a western entity such as Yahoo! trades information on a Chinese citizen with the government. It is one of the terrible results of China’s “cooperative partnerships”—a deal that seeks profit while destroying ethics. Have you thought to cosign a petition for his freedom of expression, or to strike against such evil phenomena in the name of “cooperative partnership?”

Those experts on international relations and China issues should also know of Dr. Xu Zerong, an intellectual who was sentenced by Chinese authorities to 13 years in prison in violation of freedom of academic exchange. Do you not feel more concern to call jointly for the release of Dr. Xu who has been unjustly imprisoned for more than eight years?

In addition, you should also have known that China authorities have imprisoned tens of thousands for their speeches. Among them are many colleagues of journalists, human rights activists, writers and scholars, including Yang Tongyan (22 years and two sentences), Hada (15 years), Huang Jinqiu (12 years), Yang Zili and three others of the “Four Men of Beijing” (two of them sentenced to 8 years and two of them sentenced to 10 years), Zheng Yichun (7 years), Zhang Jianhong (6 years), Zhang Lin (5 years), Yang Maodong (5 years) , Lu Gengsong (4 years), Chen Shuqing (4 years), Qi Chonghuai (4 years), Du Daobin (3 years), Yan Zhengxue (3 years), Chen Daojun and Huang Qi (awaiting trial)…, and Hu Jia (3 and a half years) who has recently been awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Will you also make a joint petition for their releases, to let them enjoy a little “human rights improvement” believed by some of you? The cases of discrimination against speeches like these are too numerous to mention. How may of the experts and authorities on China issues among you have cared for such cases and made “careful investigation” of them?

It is pretty good that that your letter advocated “careful investigation, analysis and report on the diversity and different aspects of contradictions in China’s development,” and “proclaimed to defend the professionalism, responsibility and objectivity of journalist and academic work.” This is excellent! We raise our hands in agreement. Therefore, we urge the experts and scholars who have received “cooperative partnership” with the Chinese governmental institutions, to walk among Chinese civilians, listen to the voices from various parties and then decide what to do for the protection of free speech. Hereby, we also call on these experts and scholars that, when you are developing your cooperative friendship with Chinese authorities and exchanging your views with Chinese colleagues, please do not forget to include the topic of “protecting freedom of speech” announced in your open letter into the agenda of your exchange programs.

Last but not the least, we call on all intellectuals of the world to uphold professional conscience, maintain intellectual independence and not bow to the political power nor be lured by fame and gain. Please take your own actions to uphold universal human values and contribute to the wellbeing all of mankind.

We hope that Deutsche Welle’s may publish this open letter of ours.

Many thanks.


Co-signers:

(53 Chinese citizens)

– Via The Epochtimes

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