Home » Posts tagged 'CCTV'
Tag Archives: CCTV
709 Crackdown Three Years on: Mother and Lawyer Reveals Brutality Against Her Teenage Son for the First Time
Wang Yu, July 1, 2018
Wang Yu (王宇), born 1971 in Inner Mongolia, was a lawyer with the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm when she was abducted in the early morning of July 9, 2015. The date of her detention marks the beginning of, and gives name to, the most notorious human rights event over the last two years – the 709 Crackdown. That same evening, her husband and son, en route to Australia for the son to attend school, were also detained. Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun, also a lawyer, were released on bail in August 2016 and the family of three was sequestered in an apartment in Ulan Hot, Inner Mongolia, under severe surveillance. This continued until late 2017, when they were allowed to return to their home in Beijing. Wang Yu has not been able to resume her legal practice because of government obstruction.
Wang recounted her experience in secret detention in the early months of 709 Crackdown, and her forced TV denunciation of the American Bar Association’s inaugural Human Rights Award. Growing up and attending high school in Beijing, Wang Yu’s son Bao Zhuoxuan, 15 years old in July 2015, was briefly detained and then uprooted from home and school and taken to Inner Mongolia to live with his maternal grandparents. In October 2015, a few friends of Wang Yu inside and outside China devised a plan to help the young man by bringing him out of China secretly. It failed; Bao Zhuoxuan and the two adults accompanying him were captured near the Burmese border and brought back. After being held for two and half years, Bao Zhuoxuan was finally allowed to leave China early this year to study in Australia. While he has not spoken about his experiences, his mother Wang Yu spoke out for the first time in a recent interview with The Epoch Times. The following excerpts were translated by China Change and edited for clarity. — The Editors
The first time I tried to talk to someone about this [what my son has gone through], I simply couldn’t go on — I just wept and wept.
My son has never talked about it with me in detail; for us to talk about it is like being traumatized all over again. It pierces my heart. I’ve avoided going into depth with my son about his experiences. It was only through fragmentary words with my son, both sets of grandparents, and aunts, that I have learned a bit about what happened to him.
On July 9, 2015, my husband was taking our son to the airport as he was preparing to go to Australia for senior high school. I never imagined that the two of them would be arrested. At almost the same time, they came to our home, drilled out the lock, and in a few minutes had invaded my apartment. A gang of men came in, bowled me over, slapped on handcuffs, put a black hood over my head, then hauled me downstairs and stuffed me into the waiting vehicle. In other words, on the morning of July 9, our entire family was arrested.
Then, my son was taken to a hotel in Tianjin — I think one of the popular chains like ‘Ru Jia’ (如家) or ‘Seven Days’ (七天) — locked in a room, and monitored by police every day. Zhuoxuan resisted and tried to force his way out. He’s only 15 and slightly built at around 100 jin (110 lb.); one of the police officers grabbed him and instantly tossed him to the ground, or onto the bed, then picked him up and slammed him back down over and over again. The kid was really worn down by it, exhausted, and just slept. Three days after he was detained his aunt came to pick him up and take him to his paternal grandmother’s place, and after that he was taken back to the home of his other grandmother, my mother, in Inner Mongolia.
Growing up, my son had always attended top schools in Tianjin and Beijing, and he was all set to go to Australia for his studies, but now he was detained and exiled to far-flung Inner Mongolia in a city township to study. He found it very difficult to adjust to it all.
During custody, when they told me that my son was captured while trying to smuggle out of China, I passed out. I still feel the terror just thinking of it now. It has to be the most horrific moment of my life.
Friends told me that when they brought my son back from Burma, they put handcuffs and leg irons on him! People who haven’t been put in handcuffs and leg irons probably don’t know, but wearing them is torture. They did so gratuitously because there was no way my son, so small, could run away with so many police around him. How could they slap handcuffs and leg irons on him? I couldn’t get over it.
According to grandmother, in the Yunnan public security bureau, the police slapped him around, quite a lot, in the face. I cry whenever I talk about this. They made my son frame other people. They told him exactly what he had to say. He didn’t agree, so they hit him, with a thick, long wooden staff. They started at him in the lower back, moving higher and higher, smashing it into his back, while yelling: “If you don’t write what we say, we’re going to go all the way up to your head and smash your skull in.” My son begged for their forgiveness, responding: “Don’t hit me, it hurts too much, I can’t take it anymore; just write what you want and I’ll sign it, isn’t that enough?” This is how badly they beat my son!
In the early days after my husband and I were detained, my son did his part to fight back. He reached out to a dozen or so lawyers to find legal counsel for us. But he was a child after all, and easily controlled by the police.
Before I was released on bail, my son was living at my younger sister’s apartment. Police installed themselves in the apartment opposite hers; same with my mother’s, with police living opposite, on 24 hour shifts, watching them over. When my mother or my sister went out, whether buying vegetables, exercising, or going to the hairdresser, the police were there following.
When my son came home from school every day he would lock himself in his small bedroom, wouldn’t let anyone else in, and shut the window tight. He put himself in a completely closed-off state. This was right when the boy was in his adolescence, when he was naturally inclined to resist external control. Yet now, he not only had his independence stifled, but was stripped of his privacy and made to live under the lens of surveillance cameras, followed by state security police everywhere he went!
After I was released on bail, our whole family was exiled to Ulanhot in the east of Inner Mongolia. The state security police rented an apartment for the three of us. They themselves occupied the apartment opposite ours, so they could watch us 24/7. We were on the third floor. There were three surveillance cameras in the hallway, three facial recognition cameras, another camera downstairs in the entrance, another outside, and dozens of cameras affixed to the buildings surrounding ours. Whatever Bao Longjun and I did, even taking out the trash or running errands, the police would come downstairs and follow us around.
Every morning two or three police would come and take my son to school; two or three would then bring him back in the evening. There were three cameras pointed at him in his classroom, as well as cameras in the school corridors, and even a special monitoring room at the school where personnel could watch my son on monitors. Several state security officers patrolled the school.
My son lived under these conditions for two years. Mentally he was in a terrible state.
After I came home, I took him to the doctor, who said he was depressed. I thought to myself that I just couldn’t let my son keep living in this environment anymore, or he’d be ruined for life.
Before my son left China in January of this year, I never once slept a full night through! I feel that as long as my son is in this country, he’ll face danger — and I have no idea when or what harm will befall him! For us adults, whether it’s being put in detention or under house arrest, I think we can bear it, and we have learned to live with it. But with my son, no matter how old he is, we want to put him under our wing and look after him. But in China, parents can’t even look after their own children! It was only after my son left that I felt relieved.
Televised Confession: ‘I Was Sick to my Stomach Worrying About My Son’
In the early days after I was arrested on July 9, 2015, the police interrogators tried to get me on TV. I resisted and resisted more. In the end though, I gave in because of my son.
On about July 31 or August 1 2015, they put me into a car and hooded me. I had no idea what was outside, and I just heard one of the interrogators saying: “Ah, the CCTV’s Big Underpants don’t look bad at all!” So I knew we’d arrived at CCTV. I got taken into a room and they took the hood off, so I used my hair to cover my face, because I didn’t want them filming me. They said they were going to turn the camera on, and I cursed them out and said I didn’t want to be filmed. After that, one of the women said: “Lawyer Wang, if you don’t want to go on camera, we won’t force you. Just go back. If you want to be recorded later, we’ll be waiting.” I said: “You needn’t wait. I definitely don’t want to go on camera. I never wanted to go on camera. If you wait, you’ll be waiting in vain.” They sent me back. From what the interrogators said, it appeared that this woman was the very famous CCTV anchor Zhang Quanling (张泉灵). That time I managed to resist, and they didn’t get what they wanted.
Come one night in October, the police barged into my room in the middle of the night and woke me up yelling. They showed me two pieces of paper: the first, a facsimile from the public security department of Yunnan Province to the public security department of Inner Mongolia, saying that Yunnan public security organs had arrested a number of people attempting to steal across the border, one of which was my son, Bao Zhuoxuan, from Inner Mongolia; the second was a photo of my son. In the photo, he was leaning against a wall, which had on it measurements, making clear that it was the kind of mugshot made for suspected criminals who are being detained. Atop the photo it said: “Criminal Suspect Bao Zhuoxuan.” The moment I saw this, I fainted. My mind went blank.
They went to get a doctor, and when I came to there was a person in a white gown who gave me some antihypertensive drugs to lower my blood pressure. An interrogator said that my son had been kidnapped and the police rescued him; but since he had crossed the border illegally, he was being detained.
The interrogator said: “Do you want to save your son or not? If you want to save him, you need to make clear your stance and denounce those ‘anti-China forces.’” I asked back: “What are you talking about?” He wrote on a piece of paper the line he wanted me to repeat.
Every time I was interrogated, the police used a computer to transcribe the interrogation, and the computer’s webcam recorded it. So they said: “We’ll record you, you just state your stance, just say that you denounce the ‘anti-China forces’ who kidnapped your son. Then we will show it to the leaders in the Ministry of Public Security. If the leaders think that Wang Yu has really come around on her standpoint, they’ll let your son go.” I said: “You’re not going to put this on television, are you?” He said: “It definitely won’t go on TV.” So they shot that small piece of footage using the computer’s webcam, and the officer even said: “See? We just used the webcam to record it, not a camera. So it’s definitely not for media use. If we wanted to use it for media, we’d be using a proper, professional camera.”
After that they kept persuading me: if you want your son to go abroad to study, you have to be released from detention first, etc. They tried to negotiate, saying: “If you want your son to leave China, you need to first get out of detention, and if you don’t agree to go on television, then we can’t release you.”
I thought it over a long while. If it was just me going to prison for several years, I wouldn’t have cared so much. But I felt that I had to get out to be with my son, and do whatever it takes to send him out of China. So, for my son and my husband, I finally agreed to their demands to be recorded, do what they said, and read out the script they wrote for me. That was August 3 or 4, 2016, a year after I’d been taken to CCTV.
Only after I relented did they let me go.
My husband was very upset about the fact that I agreed to it. He was furious. Initially my son also thought that it was a disgrace. There was a period when the two of them would make cutting remarks to me or mock me for it. I felt I was under so much pressure. In the end I asked Zhuoxuan: “Son, do you think that it would have been better if I refused to go on television, and your mother and father were sentenced to a few years prison? Or is it better that I agreed, lost face, but we were able to be together?” He said: “I want my mother with me! Mama hasn’t lost face!”
Being a Lawyer in China, Before and After the 709 Crackdown
In the past, as one of China’s legal professionals, I felt that I wasn’t going to help this government deceive the people — I thought that since you promulgated this and that law, and you allowed me to be a lawyer, then I had no choice but pursue the rule of law! I knew that I might be suppressed because of that, but I couldn’t go against my conscience, or be used as an instrument of the judicial system like some lawyers, putting on the garb of a gorgeous legal worker while assisting the government deceive the public. I couldn’t do that, or I’d be deceiving my clients, deceiving society, and most importantly I’d be cheating my own conscience — I’d feel that I didn’t live up to my conscience!
Now I think that China simply has no law! It has some words called ‘the law’ over there, which they say are for everyone to follow, but they use it to limit and restrain citizens. Those in power are above the law.
There are 300,000 lawyers in China, and the number grows annually. The majority, however, are simply ‘flower vases’ — they’re put there to make outsiders and Chinese people who don’t know the truth think: China has the rule of law, has so many written laws, and so many lawyers.
The fact is that all these forms, including the public security bureau, the procuratorate, and the courts, are all meant for the creation of a false image of China being a country with the rule of law. In fact, China has no rule of law, and it has no law. The ‘709 incident’ is further proof that there is no such thing as rule of law in China! Nor is there law!
I’m bereft of hope. After being arrested this time, I just felt like we’d gone back to the Cultural Revolution era. Coming out of ‘709,’ I don’t believe we can make any impact as lawyers.
The essence of the rule of law is the restriction of government power. Yet the Chinese Communist Party uses the law as an instrument to strengthen its rule — and in so doing, lawyers are necessarily an instrument for strengthening their rule. This fact puts the legal profession in an extremely conflicted, awkward position.
If this system doesn’t change, China’s so-called rule of law is nothing but a sham. I don’t believe it.
The Nightmare – An Excerpt of Lawyer Wang Yu’s Account of 709 Detention and Torture, Wang Yu, November 13, 2017.
The Vilification of Lawyer Wang Yu and Violence By Other Means, Matthew Robertson and Yaxue Cao, July 27, 2015.
She was a quiet commercial lawyer. Then China turned against her. Washington Post, July 18, 2015.
War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018.
Wu Gan, March 24, 2017
Well-known human rights activist Wu Gan (吴淦) was arrested in May 2015. After a brief period of custody in his home province Fujian, he was taken to Tianjin as part of the 709 arrests. According to a complaint filed by his lawyer, on August 1, 2015, Wu Gan was forced to participate in a video interview with CCTV host Dong Qian (董倩) in which he was supposed to confess his guilt. He refused to follow the script. Yesterday his lawyer posted online Wu Gan’s letter to Ms. Dong Qian, dated March 8. — The Editors
Dear Ms. Dong Qian,
I write this letter to you because I still have a thin thread of hope in your basic humanity. I hate all dictatorships, as well as those who help dictators, but I’m an optimist when it comes to human nature. For example, this is what the public thinks about the organization your work for: when the auxiliary building of CCTV headquarters, known as “big underpants,” went up in flames, people were ecstatic. When one of your evening news hosts got throat cancer, the public delighted in his misfortune — it seems fitting that a throat used to broadcast untruth everyday should become cancerous. Netizens nicknamed CCTV a den of debauchery where the likes of Li Dongsheng (李东生, former minister of public security) plied his trade as a pimp, sending CCTV women up to Zhou Yongkang (周永康, former security boss) to have his way with. The prime time Evening News is such a bore that netizens have turned it into a template for endless spoofing. When one day one of your own, Bi Fujian (毕福剑), made wicked fun of Maoism in his off-time, it shows what a schizophrenic place it is! I cite all of these to remind you just how CCTV is perceived by the people.
CCTV is despised not because people’s values are warped, but because this system has warped everything. It’s this system that has turned the media you work for into a tool for keeping the people ignorant, making it an accomplice for the worst evil. It’s now become a byword for lies and propaganda and a spokesperson for evil.
The only way to wash away the stain of associating with it, and to gain your own integrity and personal esteem, is to flee as soon as possible. When the anchor Du Xian (杜宪) demonstrated her own humanity after the June 4 massacre — wearing black, showing her tears on television — she received a silent national applause and respect from all. The public sees things clearly. I respectfully ask you: for such a beauty, why be a villain?
I have applied for you to be a witness in my case, and I hope you will appear in court and testify. I want you to tell the world about how I was hauled, a black hood covering my head, in front of you for an interview on August 1, 2015. Please gather your courage and conscience, and tell the public what you saw on that day. Tell everyone how I rebuked and exposed An Shaodong (安少东, security agent and interrogator) who sat diagonally from me. Tell the public what he did to me. Tell them about my back injury.
Tell them how actors were brought in to act out a script for the televised confession. I trust that you’ll show the kind-hearted side of your nature. I’m sorry that you didn’t get what you had come for because I refused to act according to their script. For my disobedience, I was punished badly by An Shaodong after being taken back to detention center.
An Shaodong sat diagonally from me to intimidate me. I experienced for myself the inside process by which CCTV makes its news pieces, and how the station and the public security organs work hand in hand to create the news they need. Amazing country, amazing media, amazing public security agents; together they produce amazing journalism.
Finally, allow me to express my gratitude to your television station. I am very grateful that CCTV joined in when People’s Daily and Xinhua slandered me with Cultural Revolution-style propaganda while I had no freedom to speak for myself. On the other hand, thank heaven I was slandered, not praised. Or it would truly have been a stain on my reputation. How could I have lived with my head up high if mouthpieces like you said nice things about me? In 2009, when your television station and a media under People’s Daily tried to interview me about the Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇) case, I rejected it due to my germophobia. A man doesn’t keep company with evil, and this is the line I draw while going about being a human being.
Wu Gan (Super Vulgar Butcher)
March 8, 2017
Wu Gan: Urgent Request to Meet the Residential Prosecutors at the Tianjin Second Detention Center
I am Wu Gan. For over a year since my transfer to the Tianjin Second Detention Center on January 8, 2016, I have made countless requests to meet with you, the residential prosecutors from the Second Branch of the Tianjin Municipal Procuratorate. The detention center told me that they had passed on my requests but that they could do nothing as you kept declining to see me.
I need to see you, not because I want to have nice chats with you about the beauty and meaning of life, but to complain about police violations in handling my case, including torture. There is something even more important: I want to report leads about a possible voluntary manslaughter case. But you are nowhere to be found. I am not the only detainee who has trouble meeting you; other detainees have the same problem.
You are supposed to carry out your duty, which is to meet with each detainee and learn if they have been subjected to illegal treatment. But you have abdicated your legal responsibilities. This is not a matter of being lazy, but a matter of negligence.
I’m requesting this urgent meeting because time is running out, and the death row inmate in question could be executed soon. For those who are sentenced to death for something they didn’t do, the truth can never be restored. So you must meet with me as soon as possible to hear my complaint. As for whether you investigate or not, or whether or not I will suffer retaliation, you may do as you please.
I will expose more details of these matters in the future, showing the public just how prosecutors in China go about their jobs.
March 24, 2017
Lawyer Ge Yongxi: Meeting with Wu Gan
Yesterday afternoon and this morning, I twice met with Mr. Wu Gan, who is being charged with “subversion of state power.” After we had discussed the case work, Wu asked about people and events outside, and he asked me to pass on his thanks to friends.
We also talked about the issue of compromising and admitting “guilt.” Wu Gan said that, during the Two Sessions (political meetings earlier this month), the government sent two female mental health counselors to speak with him. Over and over again, they attempted to coax him into admitting guilt. Wu Gan asked the Tianjin Second Detention Center to tell the authorities that they needn’t waste their resources by sending anyone else, because these two women had failed to convince him, with facts and universal values, that what he did was wrong. He said that the fact that they were using coercion and deception to make him admit guilt is enough to prove that what he did was right — that it was good for the country and the people, and could stand the test of time.
Wu Gan reiterated his two guiding principles: first, he would never do anything unscrupulous; second, he would never sack his own lawyers and retain lawyers designated by the government.
Wu Gan said that he has gained more than he has lost during the ordeal of the past nearly two years. He was able to reflect on many aspects of his past experiences; he learned how to triumph in the midst of devilish cruelty; he learned how to live close quarters and long term with all sorts of criminal suspects, but not sunk to their level.
We both enjoyed our conversation and wished we had more time. Around lunchtime we said our goodbyes and ended our meeting at the repeated urging of several police officers.
Ge Yongxi (葛永喜)
March 24, 2017
Bill of Indictment Against Rights Activist Wu Gan, January 12, 2017
Wu Gan the Butcher, a profile by Yaqiu Wang, July 22, 2015
Yaxue Cao, November 27, 2016
Ms. Liu Huizhen (刘惠珍) is a villager in the District of Fangshan (房山区), on the southwestern outskirts of Beijing. She’s a victim of forced demolition who fought hard to preserve her property but lost it anyway. This year, she is one of the 70 or so Beijing residents who organized to compete for seats as district People’s Representatives. China held its once-every-five-year grassroots elections for county-district level People’s Representatives on November 15. In a joint statement, Ms. Liu and other independent candidates promised that “they will make sure every voter knows who they are and how to reach them with their problems, and as their representatives, will monitor the government and its functions.”
Financial Times, Washington Post, and other media outlets reported Ms. Liu’s candidacy. On November 17, BBC posted a striking 5-minute video of its Beijing correspondent John Sudworth visiting Ms. Liu, showing him blocked and manhandled by a throng of plainclothes cops, or government-hired thugs. The video went viral on WeChat, and got a lot of play on Twitter too.
On November 19, a CCTV journalist based in London — according to her Twitter bio in any case — with the handle @KongLinlin, accused John Sudworth of making “fake” news. She has since been identified as Kong Linlin (孔琳琳).
Several Twitter users, including BBC’s Stephen McDonell, asked her to point out which part of John Sudworth’s reporting was fake. She replied in Chinese:
“Liu Huizhen has been party to a lawsuit because of a housing demolition, and a BBC journalist in China got himself involved in the Chinese judiciary, trying to artificially lump together Chinese grassroots elections with a demolition suit. When he reported for Western audiences, he made no mention of the woman’s background, misleading people exactly the way he reported the Obama Red Carpet Gate.”
Ms. Kong is referring to the fact that Liu sued Fangshan District Housing and Urban-Rural Construction Committee for unlawful demolition and lost in the first instance and then, in 2015, the appeal.
In his reporting, Sudworth made no mention of the demolition suit, as it’s irrelevant to the elections. So how did Sudworth “artificially lump together Chinese grassroots elections with a demolition suit”?
Does Liu’s “background” matter in the elections, and in her role as an independent candidate? It appears to me that it’s the CCTV reporter who’s lumping together Liu Huizhen’s lawsuit with her participation in the elections.
Ms. Kong went on to explain why the story is supposedly fake:
“Isn’t he deliberately blurring this woman’s lawsuit and using Western political concepts to get involved in China’s rural economic disputes? Hasn’t he been making hate propaganda for BBC?” (Emphasis in original.)
Continuing to explain the alleged falsity of Sudworth’s reporting, she tweeted (English her own): “Deliberately reporting on unclear fact , depend on single resource ,misleading the audience .That is also a fake news.” (A Twitter user commented: “this is not how you type punctuation.”)
She picked it up some two hours later on November 20:
“A Chinese person who doesn’t abide by Chinese election laws but fantasizes that she can ‘participate’ in elections in the American way. It’s inevitable that she’d be ‘locked up’. Ms. Liu also supported Hong Kong independence — how could she have the right to be elected?”
According to Article 3 of China’s Electoral Law, “All citizens of the People’s Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 shall have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence. Persons who have been deprived of political rights according to the law shall not have the right to vote and stand for election.”
Ms. Liu may have lost a civil lawsuit against her local government, but she’s not a criminal and has not been deprived of political rights. In November 2014, Liu and nine others in Beijing were detained for holding signs to support the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, and she was released after seven months in detention.
By now, many Chinese Twitter users were arguing with and ridiculing Kong Linlin.
A few hours later, Ms. Liu Huizhen, who recently joined Twitter, became aware of the unfolding argument and tweeted: “You are a Chinese journalist, and you have no regard for fact. All you do is sing the praise [of the Party]. Have you eaten up your own conscience?”
“I’m Liu Huizhen,” she continued, “they blocked me from leaving my home because I declared that I would take part in the elections as a candidate. The world wouldn’t know such ugliness if the BBC didn’t happen to capture the truth. Ms. Kong Linlin, you may eat you dog food with your conscience unperturbed, but you’ve got no right to insult me!”
“I’ve decided to tweet more details of my candidacy. @KongLinlin, open up your titanium dog eyes to see who’s violating the law,” Liu went on.
“I submitted my name [to the district’s electoral committee] in mid-October, 2016 to stand for election. Around 10 am on October 30, I picked up the voter recommendation form and candidate CV form. Around noon on the same day, I began to seek support in the No. 50 electoral zone. By the next day, 24 voters in my zone had signed on to recommend me as a candidate for office of People’s Representative.”
According to Article 29 of China’s Electoral Law, any citizen with the recommendation of 10 or more voters can enter the primary selection.
Liu continued, “What the BBC video revealed was only a tiny fraction of my far more complicated experience. The repressive agents were so blatant that not even policemen dared intervene. So you tell me: who is backing them? I can’t imagine there are journalists like Kong Linlin who would defend them! I ask the whole world to judge this. Thank you everyone!”
She attached photographs of the neighborhood posting of five candidates for the No. 50 electoral zone, and her ballot, where she wrote in herself and another candidate.
An hour later, the CCTV journalist resumed her attack:
“You should also disclose how you received guidance, and how much funding you received, from overseas anti-China hostile forces.”
“How did BBC accidentally videotape you? How did you accidentally have photos as proof when you supported Hong Kong independence? You’ve actively taken part in anti-China political activities. Stop pretending you’re an innocent village woman.”
Ms. Kong provided no evidence for these accusations. To a Twitter user who pointed out her distorted logic, she replied: “I also support legitimate candidates who use the ballot to gain rights, but those who are funded by foreign political forces will have no lawful right to stand for elections in China.”
To a Twitter user who criticized the Chinese government’s use of thuggery to stop independent candidates, Ms. Kong has this to say: “China prohibits the use of illegal assembly to participate in People’s Representative elections. If [she] wants to be elected as a representative the American way, [she] should go to the United States.”
One comment asked Ms. Kong: “How many people together constitute ‘illegal assembly’?” while another comment pointed out: “So far, Ms. Liu’s ‘violation’ of the law only existed in your mouth, but I saw with my own eyes the violation of law by the thugs, I also see that you are defending such violations of the law. …By defending such violations of the law, you don’t show your high ground in rule-of-law thinking, but the lowness of your moral standard.”
To a Twitter user who asked Ms. Kong to explain what a “legitimate” candidate is, she replied:
“First of all, [a candidate] cannot be manipulated by foreign forces. This is a basic requirement for candidates in any country.” She didn’t reply when the same Twitter user asked her: “Which law defines whether or not a candidate is ‘manipulated by foreign forces’? Who has the right to define it? Through what procedures is it defined? Or is it just an arbitrary decision from the lips of the relevant organ?” (i.e. official government body.)
Finally, CCTV’s Kong Linlin had this to say to Ms. Liu Huizhen:
“Ms. Liu, to petition your case, you go to the court. Nobody is blocking you from taking part in the elections, except that you have to go through appropriate procedures and abide by Chinese law. You mix your petition with illegal assembly, and in addition, you collude with foreign forces, and support Hong Kong independence. You are doing so many things, and each one of them endangers the country. Don’t be sold out by those people in the end.”
Because of this prolonged argument between Ms. Kong Linlin and Ms. Liu Huizhen and a good number of Chinese Twitter users, I scrolled down Ms. Kong’s Twitter feed and had a few more peeks into her world:
- On UK public opinion against the Hinkley deal: “Very close mind .” (English her own.)
- She likes to use the word “democrazy” to answer Twitter users who express disgust with her views.
- On the Hamilton cast reading a statement to Vice President-elect Mike Pence: “Insult your audience is not the real free speech.” (English her own.)
- On the execution of Jia Jinglong (贾敬龙): “If the case is so easy to judge ,why we need a professional judge .” (English her own.)
- On Syria: “…it is all because of Obama.” (English her own.)
- On the CCP and China today: “Chinese young people have to thank that big mountain that blocks the wind for them when they wear high-end earpieces and listen to music and discuss current affairs, spared of the fate of the Iraqi, Libyan, and Syrian refugees who are displaced or die on their journey because of the harm of color revolutions.”
- On Western media: “To understand the evil side of western media , they try to provoke and make more troubles on the rising China.” [English her own]
- On the UK: “Hahaha, The British,’ like a lion,they like to roar,but can no longer hunt.'” (English her own.)
Yaxue Cao edits this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao
Compare Ms. Kong’s worldview to that articulated in these two propaganda videos released during the trials of four lawyers and activists earlier this year:
‘We Have a Fake Election’: China Disrupts Local Campaigns, the New York Times, Nov. 15, 2016
For Over 36 Years, Grassroots Elections in China Have Made No Progress – An Interview With Hu Ping, China Change, Nov. 1, 2016
By Matthew Robertson and Yaxue Cao, published: July 27, 2015
On the heels of a nationally coordinated campaign of arrests and disappearances of rights lawyers in China, Party-run media have aggressively attacked, framed, and sought to defame the same lawyers in articles and news reports (here, here, and here).
In one CCTV segment in particular, Wang Yu (王宇), one of China’s most prominent rights defenders, was portrayed as a menace to court order as she loudly remonstrated with bailiffs.
Wang was, along with four other lawyers, attempting to defend three practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that is heavily persecuted in China, in a court in Shenyang, Liaoning Province last April.
On July 19, nine days after Wang Yu had been taken away by police, CCTV broadcast the tail end of an altercation in the Shenhe District Court, which made Wang Yu out to be the aggressor as she yelled out that the court was a “pack of scoundrels.” She can be seen pointing her finger, enraged, and at one point demands that the court transcriptionist record her words: “You are a pack of scoundrels!” She is then dragged away by bailiffs.
A young female court secretary is interviewed by CCTV, giving every impression of being upset and offended at this conduct. “The law is sacred. I feel that she did not exhibit this in the least. She abused the judge, calling him a dirty scoundrel. She said we’re beasts in human clothing.”
It is an unflattering representation, and one clearly meant to undermine and attack Wang Yu’s reputation and that of right lawyers in general. The state media further alleged that the kind of behavior Wang exhibited in the Shenyang court broke the law, and that rights lawyers who confront the court are “pests.”
But CCTV did not tell the real story of what happened in the courtroom on April 22. Not surprisingly, a fuller understanding of what took place reveals a rather different picture to the state portrayal of Wang Yu.
The April hearing in which Wang was defense counsel was the fourth time that judicial authorities in Shenyang had attempted to try the three defendants, all practitioners of Falun Gong. They were being tried under Article 300 of the criminal code, “Using a heterodox religion to undermine implementation of the law,” custom-made for persecuting Falun Gong.
First, defendant Li Dongxu (李东旭) objected to appearing by herself, rather than with her co-defendants Yu Ming (于溟) and Gao Jingqun (高敬群) per court procedure. She was silenced by the judge, but persisted. So the bailiffs rushed at her, shoving her back into her seat. She cried out, struggling through tears to speak, still being gripped fiercely by the bailiffs, before one of them kicked her chair over. Injured and in tears, she was removed from the room.
Lawyer Dong Qianyong (董前勇) then stood up and objected to the treatment, Dong describing the torture that Li had suffered in custody. He was pounced on by four bailiffs, pulled out of the room, pushed down, and put into a chokehold until he lost consciousness.
And this is when the CCTV footage began: Wang Yu shouting at the bailiffs for openly beating her client and colleague and removing them from the courtroom.
Prior to the irregularities in April, the previous hearings saw similar problematic conduct by judicial officials. For example, in January Li Dongxu’s mother, 82, was dragged out of a courtroom by bailiffs, some pulling her by the hair; Yu Ming’s older brother was strangled by the judge Huang Gang (黄刚) and also thrown out of court, and his 67-year-old mother was knocked unconscious; all complaints about this conduct were referred to the 610 Office, the extralegal agency set up to oversee the Falun Gong persecution.
In custody, the treatment was worse. Li Dongxu reported that she was stripped naked, slapped repeatedly in the face, and was threatened that she would be shocked in the vagina with an electric baton if she refused to cooperate. A number investigation transcripts and confessions that prosecutors sought to use in court had been elicited from the defendants under this intense duress and torture. Wang Yu and her colleagues had sought to bring these facts to light in court.
‘Mere Words’ as State Violence
Given that this attack takes place as the security forces threaten, detain, and disappear lawyers around the country, the CCTV portrayal of lawyer Wang Yu cannot be understood in the same manner as the sort of negative or even misleading news reporting one might find in other countries and contexts.
The news story vilifying Wang Yu is a speech act that takes the form of news, but fundamentally, it is an orchestrated act that works in lockstep with the physical means of persecution of these lawyers, and the groups they defend. Because the Communist Party has a monopoly on the media, it is just another one of the Party’s tools, in addition to the police forces and the judiciary, to be used freely against those who challenge them or whom they deem enemies.
Both are required: one to physically repress the victims, and the other to smear their names and accuse them of base motives, of themselves acting as the “hoodlums.” At the same time, this attempts to deprive the lawyers of one of their most precious assets, intangible though it is: their honor, and their moral integrity for standing up to the Communist Party.
The attack on Wang Yu and other lawyers have a specific context in Chinese communist history and propaganda. Ryan Mitchell and Can Sun put the matter eloquently in a 2012 letter to the Connecticut Law Tribune, when discussing the attempt to prosecute Zhao Zhizhen (赵致真), who produced incendiary propaganda against Falun Gong during the height of the Party’s campaign against the practice:
“Although it can be difficult for those of us in the West to understand how propaganda — ‘mere language’ — might substantially assist such violations, it is the unfortunate truth that, in the People’s Republic of China, not all language is created equal. The defendant’s own statements about his propaganda work are perhaps one of the best indications of its efficacy. In one widely-disseminated statement, he described his work as effecting douzheng [鬥爭] against Falun Gong, and in another, as having a crucial role in the jiepi [揭批] of the religion and its adherents: both terms, the first meaning ‘ideological persecution campaign’ and the latter ‘public degradation and vilification,’ are at the heart of Cultural Revolution-era practices of political persecution, easily recognizable to any Chinese citizen.”
It is this ethos of hateful political persecution that CCTV has brought to bear against Wang Yu and the rights defense profession as a whole.
Clearly, it is not enough that the Communist Party disappear and torture lawyers across the country, in doing so depriving China’s citizenry of the one remaining outlet they had to attempt to seek justice. It must also use the Party’s sweeping control of the mass media to destroy their reputations, and stamp out all hope for China’s rights lawyers that the legal system will ever be an avenue of redress. In other words, the violence against them is total.
 Ryan Mitchell is a Mellon Foundation Humanities Fellow and a Ph.D. Candidate at Yale University. Can Sun, Ph.D., is a lawyer in New York with expertise in technology and Chinese implementation of high-tech systems.
Matthew Robertson is a reporter and editor at the Epoch Times, and Yaxue Cao edits this website.
She was a quiet commercial lawyer. Then China turned against her. Washington Post profile of lawyer Wang Yu, July 18, 2015.
China’s irrepressible lawyers, by Teng Biao, Washington Post, July 19, 2015.
Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers, Mo Zhixu explains why Chinese government is out to get them, China Change, July 23, 2015.
By Wang Qinglei, published: December 9, 2013
On November 27th, 2013, I finished all of the paperwork and walked out of China Central Television’s east gate, the place where I had worked for ten years. It was the coldest day in Beijing since winter began this year. The only warmth I was able to feel was from the comment an old, retired “auntie” made as I walked through the resignation procedures: “Ten years! You left your youth behind with CCTV and they are letting you go like this?” Who would have thought, in ten years time, what moved me in the end was the sigh of this old woman whom I did not know at all. Despite the mental preparation I had weeks to make for this moment, I was still surprised by the sorrow I felt, bleaker than that cold wintry day, as I walked out of the CCTV main entrance. Or, it was perhaps a profound aching for a far-off, unattainable, spring.
Ten years would not be insignificant to anyone’s life. For me, these were ten years that made me and turned me into a news media professional. But at the same time, the stifling environment of this place also contorted me, making my work here an unceasing struggle and agony. In the past couple of weeks, many coworkers gave me phone calls or WeChat messages, and even some reporters whom I had never crossed paths with during my ten years, sent text messages, to express their shock, anger, disappointment, or even cursing, and of course also good wishes of the most sincere kind. They were all bewildered how the episode had come to this end. Long-time co-workers lamented with me, “Over all these years, there have been editors, reporters, producers, and directors who have been suspended because of stories, but you are the first producer who has been fired for speaking your true feelings! What is wrong with CCTV these days?” Actually, the reason, as well as the logic, is very simple: kill one to warn a hundred. The leaders know very well that there are many people at CCTV who think like me, but I was just the one who dared to speak out, that’s all. This is the method they can use to fetter everyone’s thinking, futilely.
The cause of all this was the Weibo posts I made in August this year when the Ministry of Public Security was cracking down on internet rumors. At that time, Public Security Bureaus across China used all kinds of charges (disorderly behavior, public security penalty, illegal business operation, slander, etc.) to round up “big rumor mongers” without clear legal bases and legal explanations. As they occurred, I questioned such practices: While there is nothing wrong with cracking down on internet rumors, you must do so in accordance with the law and you must let the law determine the guilt, otherwise power is overstepping the authority of the law. It was not until several weeks later that the Supreme Court was finally forced to produce a rule, but the rule of “500 reposts” [that constitutes rumor mongering], hurriedly produced, was laughable and unreasonable.
It was during this period of time that CCTV, the mainstream media of the nation, disregarded the procedural justice of the law itself, shouting and beating the drum from the high ground of morality. Using pictures, shots, and commentary in place of law to imply that some internet celebrities were “big internet rumor mongers” and to presume they were guilty. Even more excessive was that after the internet celebrity Xue Manzi was detained for soliciting prostitutes, the details of his visits to the prostitutes were aired for an unprecedented three minutes on CCTV’s prime time evening news broadcast without the least bit of apprehension, appalling the general public.
In a Weibo post that “only I could see” [when Weibo posts are censored, you can still see them on your own account but other users are unable to view them] I wrote: “The past two weeks have been disgraceful for our CCTV workers, standards for news have been raped repeatedly by those in power: we avoided legal principles, setting in motion machines to promote a crackdown on internet rumors; we used Li Kaifu’s Weibo screenshot to imply Big Vs were big rumor mongers; we displayed the details of prostitution in news broadcasts, causing the public to reprimand and deride us; we use the pubic instruments of the media to ruthlessly bombard the misconduct of a single person… The integrity and professionalism in the news has vanished totally and completely.” Many of my coworkers from the station were in my WeChat circle and were disgusted with our own reports. One co-worker said: “I don’t know how I can allow the women and kids in my family to sit in front of the television while we broadcast these kinds of details (about Xue Manzi soliciting prostitutes).” In private, co-workers were discussing: “When an American [Xue Manzi is an American citizen] visiting prostitutes in China getting on the evening news (xinwen lianbo), is this a disgrace for America or for China?”
I worked in the news commentary department for ten years, a place that was once called the Yan’an [延安, the Mecca of the Chinese communist revolution] of Chinese news. The professional news media standards that I have accepted there made me have no choice but to express resentment at the kind of news that was coming from my own hands. Why was the China Youth Daily (《中国青年报》), also a state-owned media outlet, able to utter a rational voice when faced with this kind of campaign-style law enforcement? The media is not a court of law, what basis do we have for exceeding our boundaries and passing judgment on who is a big internet celebrity and who is a big rumor monger? As a celebrity, if Xue Manzi in involved in some sort of scandal, of course we can report on it to a reasonable extent, but what is the purpose of hitting him from an intense, subjective point of view with ulterior motives? Our bosses have always criticized “tabloid style news,” but how come when we need it, we are more degraded, more obscene than the tabloids with no regard for the sentiments of the masses? Where are the news standards and professional philosophy that we have so tirelessly upheld?
Regardless of what others do, I am unable to, unwilling to, and will not, keep silent — I do not wish to be a so-called “mature” person.
Up until the day I left, CCTV had not told me exactly which one or several of my Weibo posts violated the station’s Weibo Management Regulations and its Disciplinary Management Regulations, which regulation in specific it was that I violated, and what kind of bad social influence my posts had had. Based on what regulation did they deal with me in this way? They told me to go look it up myself.
As for the baseless charge of the so-called “being out of line with the propaganda talking points of CCTV” and the Weibo Management Regulations, I have always thought they were totally ridiculous. According to the law, according to journalistic principles, was there anything I said that was inappropriate? If you recognize that the problems I pointed out are problems, then who should be the one reflecting on these issues? How is it that a news media that criticizes freedom of the press in Western countries all day long would adopt foreign media’s social media rules for their journalists and use them on CCTV’s own reporters when they are needed to keep its reporters in line? Compared to other countries, we don’t have freedom of expression; under such circumstances, we also prohibit reporters from expressing dissent. Is this not selectively neglecting the fundamentals and pursuing the trivial? You may say I need to take responsibility for my actions and bear the consequences, then will you be taking responsibility for reports like “Starbucks prices” (星巴克价格) or “land value added tax” (土地增值税) which CCTV produced following someone’s instructions and by their arrangement? Doing so, you degraded CCTV and everyone who works for CCTV.
A deputy director of the News Center said: “We are within the system; there is nothing we can do.” He’s right. In this kind of system, people’s will power is worn down and they become accustomed to it. What kind of system is it that doesn’t tolerate the truth, that does not believe in the content of its own reports, that purges those who upheld their ideals and convictions but provides a safe haven for those who scheme for power, interests and connections?
In this system, I am of the opinion that it is the distorted people who are healthy, because even if they feel helpless, they at least know what the right direction should be and do not change their pursuit. On the other hand, the people who feel at home in the system, like a fish in water, are sick, because their reliance on it has already made them numb to the point that they submit to it completely. And they become even more conceited when they succeed in it, skyrocketing up through the ranks. Perhaps no one can state clearly what a good system is, but everyone is able to sense when a system is bad — and the current system is a terrible mess of a system. Some people will say, if you cannot stand it, you can choose to leave, right? It seems like this, but I believe that the reason many people like me came to CCTV was not for money or status, but rather to realize their own ideals. I had decided that this would be a life-long value when I was still a reporter with a salary of only 4,000 RMB per month. I accepted the firing without having talks [with them] because I did not want lower my head and compromise for the sake of survival. What would come out of compromising myself and what would be the significance of it? To continue the agony of having to submit and the reality that cannot be altered for the sake of the position and the income?
As for the CCTV leaders who got rid of me, I think that back in the day many of you were promoted step by step because you unceasingly made breakthroughs, unceasingly strived, even led the way for an era of Chinese television news. But since you became leaders, so many people who were more familiar with you than me don’t understand you anymore. Why so? Are you able to recognize the gap between the thinking and pursuits of your generation and my generation? Are you willing to sit down and earnestly listen to the discontent that so many people have behind your back, and how they have changed hearts from admiration to disdain? I can understand that your position has determined the attitude and method with which you treat me, but I hope that, in dealing with young people, while you have to do what you must do, please do your utmost to raise the muzzle of the gun by one centimeter within the scope that your power allows and leave behind some news media professionals with ideals, even if it is only one. Perhaps you will fall under pressure, perhaps you will be criticized [by your bosses] for doing so, but when you leave, you can receive people’s sincere applause and respect from their hearts!
Okay, I will stop arguing about my personal gains and losses. One producer’s leaving was not a big deal to begin with. What I really want to say today, as a former CCTV employee, as a news media professional who is passionate about journalism, are some true words that I have wanted to say in these ten years. I hope that my co-workers and those leaders who got rid of me will earnestly listen.
During the ten years when I worked at CCTV, I witnessed how this national media outlet transformed from being respected to being spurned. Nowadays, people refer to CCTV as “CCAV” [Chinese Central Adult Video] to express their disdain and mockery. Having a brand new building and new equipment, having nationwide and worldwide correspondent posts, does not mean we have everything. What we have slowly lost is credibility and influence.
In 2003, when I came to CCTV’s news commentary department, China’s internet had just experienced a test of life and death. The portal websites that had survived were poised to take off. Facing this unprecedented change and at a loss as to what to do, China’s television news began to retreat in defeat. CCTV, and its state-controlled peers, started to lose its leading role in news in the face of an open, diversified internet, because too often it was subjected to planned, selective reports. People gradually stopped believing in CCTV, stopped believing in Xinwen Lianbo (the 7 pm news broadcast), and turned their noses up at a lot of CCTV’s reports. And internally, instead of considering how it should face the news media transformations of this new environment, CCTV simply changed programming non-stop. Because of the lack of a comprehensive strategy and a line of thinking, it had thrown out a lot of good things while cleaning up the undesirable before the digital reforms of news channels in 2009. Take the news commentary department for example, in 2003 we created 15 new shows, and the only ones that have survived up until today are News Weekly (originally China Weekly) and World Weekly, two weekend news shows that take stock of current events. Other programs were short-lived either because they “hit a snag” or because they were inadequate to begin with.
Even though the informationalization reforms of news channels that started in 2009 came a bit late, they did find a style of news that could compete in the internet age. Also from 2009, CCTV started establishing regional correspondent posts and overseas correspondent posts in an attempt to expand its news coverage and minimize the radius of news reporting. Looking back, if these reforms were carried out in 2003, it might have given CCTV a chance to take a breather, but just then, the “age of personal media,” marked by the rapid rise of Weibo and WeChat, brought a new, unprecedented round of assaults when CCTV’s digital mechanisms were still plagued with problems and had not gotten on the right track. What was once an authoritative media outlet was further weakened and dissipated.
These days there are many who believe that the defeat of traditional media is an inevitable outcome of the technological revolution. But honestly, in China, this conclusion is only partially true. The real reason for the defeat of China’s traditional media, including CCTV, is not that they have no way to resist the assault of new media, but rather that, in the difficult environment of public opinion, they lack the courage to speak the truth, to be responsible to the nation and the people, thus earning the respect and trust of the public.
In these ten years, as a media practitioner, I have felt more and more agony. The topics that we hoped to report on, should have reported on, according to the standards of news, were rejected time and time again. The voice that we hoped to project, the attitudes that we hoped to express, were aborted time and time again. One leader half-jokingly said to me once: “When submitting topics for approval, consider this: by and large, what you want to report on and what you think should be reported on are the issues that you cannot report on.” For a news professional, what a cruel, straggling reality this is!
Over the course of a given year, we would receive over one thousand instructions about what, and how, news should be reported. Searching our conscience, how many of them are really for the good of the country, and how many are mixed with the needs of interpersonal, power, and economic interests of individuals, organizations and the leaders? And how many are from racking one’s brains about the intentions of higher ups and then performing careful self-castrating? Our leaders should understand that, when there is so much news that cannot be, or is not allowed, to be reported on, no one will believe the news that you do report on, because it is selected for the purposes of propaganda.
From serving as the producer of the 24 Hours show to the producer of the Face to Face show, our biggest endeavor, day in and day out, was to rack our brains for ideas and excuses on how to get our leaders’ approval for the topics that we as journalists should be covering, and then, once approved, to walk a tightrope to report on them while causing no trouble for the bosses. On the surface, it seems that at times we have had breakthroughs, but such breakthroughs were often fortuitous, and would meet their predicted fate after they were broadcast. Sometimes even if we reported on some important news, we often avoided the real problems, just finding the part on the edge of news that was allowed to be expressed, showing the outside world that we were paying attention and nothing more. While doing this, many people perhaps do not realize that we are departing further and further from the essence, and the ideals, of news reporting. We are the frog boiled in warm water that has lost the courage and conviction to jump out of it.
Of course, it would be unfair to blame all of this on CCTV. But then again, have we not become an obstacle to the marching of our era, a group of apologists with vested interests, and reactionaries who impede change? Have we taken the trust that the people have placed in us to act as a watchdog and turned ourselves into manipulated clowns? Have we continually striven and fought to maintain the dignity that a national media should have? These past several years, many media outlets around us that are also state-run have changed: although the People’s Daily still exists in the same environment of restricted speech as we do, and although it remains a mouthpiece for the party as it has been for decades, they have still taken pains to speak out on sensitive issues and controversies, publishing the voices of truth that every citizen needs to hear in these times. Back when I left China National Radio, angry at the old system, I could never have imagined that in just five years, a media outlet that was once more backward, closed-off, and irrelevant than CCTV would undergo such a total transformation. The hard work done on the Voice of China since its first broadcast is worthy of the respect of anyone who works in media. The China Youth Daily, although it is no longer as powerful as Freezing Point was once, has never blindly followed the “mainstream mindset.” They have striven to provide truthful reporting and commentary, and maintained basic journalistic ethics.
And what about us? Don’t think for a minute that digital reforms can solve all the problems. If a media outlet lacks credibility, even if it reports 24/7, how many people in these times still need to turn on their television sets to get information that isn’t comprehensive, and may not even be completely true? And don’t think now that we have Weibo and WeChat accounts, that we are “with it.” Technology may transform an era, but it is ideas that lead an era. Look at our reports from the past few years: it’s all ideology, nationalist sentiment, old news rhetoric and stances, inflexible news modalities, coarse, heavy-handed journalism methods, and the loss of journalistic professionalism. Do you think that this CCTV can draw an audience? We have commentators speaking on camera every day, but aside from the efforts of Bai Yansong (白岩松), does anyone remember any powerful, provocative, and influential commentary from CCTV in the past several years?
We cannot always lie to ourselves and others, saying that Xinwen Lianbo is the most popular program. If China’s television stations were not all required to air it simultaneously, and if people didn’t take it as a political weathervane, how many people in these times would watch it to get the news? How many young people even believe Xinwen Lianbo these days? We cannot always ask people ‘Are you happy?’ to try to get a real reaction from them. CCTV interviewers, are you happy in a society with smog, traffic congestion, polluted rivers, fake foods and medicines, unaffordable housing, prohibitively expensive medical services, and unaffordable education, where people need connections to get anything done, where officials get promoted through offering bribes, and where people do not have the rights stipulated in their own constitution? We cannot always evaluate a program and its income solely by viewership. If you make a program into something like the highest-selling but contemptible Global Times, and, on top of that, you draw viewers with a couple of empty-talking experts who provoke people with their incoherent arguments, do you not worry that people will one day abandon you? We cannot always avoid the real attitudes, emotions, and anger in people’s hearts and minds. When you don’t report or comment on them, depriving people of the channels to express them, isn’t it more dangerous to let all of that pent-up emotion fester and grow? We cannot always speak hypocritically of professionalism. Professionals are also members of society; living in everyday reality. We understand this country and society in the same way as ordinary people. The true professionalism is providing objective, fair, and comprehensive reporting, not walking on eggshells to avoid making any kind of trouble. Is that not the greatest corruption of professionalism when it is degraded to mere obedience? We cannot always think that as long as we hold fast to the apron strings of those who rule the country and avoid the people’s cries that we’re safe and out of danger. When the power structure above shows signs of change, you’ll end up being more backward than the system to which you’ve been so faithful, and in that minute you’ll become expendable, like chicken bones picked clean of meat. Wouldn’t that be the greatest tragedy for a national media?
In present-day China, working in media is like being on a treadmill. You may think that you’re always going forward, but really you’re just running in place, or even slowly moving backward when you get tired. But even on this kind of treadmill, some people are getting stronger, so that one day they can exit the room and leave barriers behind.
I don’t think that CCTV is a lost cause. Even in this difficult media environment, your conviction, attitude, and bravery can still decide your style, strength and future. On the other hand, your weakness, corruption, and conservatism can lead to your falling status, declining values, and elimination.
Ten years ago, when I became [the producer of] CCTV’s news commentary program China Weekly, we were trying to come up with a tagline for the show. Mine was, “Make history with the news.” Later, the phrase they decided on was “History, One Week and a Page.” I think that people working in journalism should have this kind of sense of responsibility for the history, the country, the society and the people. Otherwise, out of the innumerable professions on this earth, why are journalists called the uncrowned kings and why is this one profession that is held up against an ideal?
Of course, CCTV can’t be expected to improve itself alone in the current reality. Contemporary China is the best it has ever been, and also the worst. It’s continually going forward, but also continually stopping or regressing, with dangers and opportunities co-existing. In today’s China, the most prevalent phenomenon, but also the most dangerous one is a dearth of true speech!
Ordinary people say nice things in front of the cameras, but curse vehemently at home. Officials say one thing when being interviewed, but say another when chatting privately. In the media, journalists explore the so-called “positive energy” from tragedies and express so-called “rationality” when surrounded by outcries. Everyone, for the sake of survival, makes convenient choices to avoid harm. But what are the consequences? In the end, everyone becomes the victim of this “lie pass,” the rule of survival. Several years ago, after the July 23rd high speed train crash incident, I was suspended from work. I wrote on my Weibo: “What would really make China ‘stable’? Maybe we can start by creating conditions under which all citizens and government officials can speak the truth. Single-minded restrictions and censorship may bring superficial peace but would ferment bigger crises. They always say that people on Weibo are irrational, but it is those senseless gag orders that are radicalizing people. The voice of truth is the one national quality that a maturing China needs the most.
China needs truth-telling badly. People hope for it and have the right to it. People should have the right to criticize political leaders and the government. People should have the right to criticize interest groups that harm the interests of the public. People should have the right to criticize social injustice and the ills of the system. These rights should not be restricted at all! Doesn’t the Constitution say that China belongs to the people? Then why can’t people speak truth? How is a country in which speaking the truth incurs persecution able to bring security and happiness to its people?
Our post-Cultural Revolution generation has heard and seen the traumas left by past tragedies. We have also experienced social upheavals. On the one hand, most people no longer believe in those ideologies and dogmas. On the other hand, people also don’t want to force democracy through revolution for fear of the terrible price society would have to pay. We want to pursue a gradual transformation; but China’s reforms to the political system are falling far short of people’s expectations and the requirements for further development despite its rapid economic growth. Those are what we really want.
Now, a lot of Chinese identify very little with their country. They only want to make, or appropriate, enough money so they can immigrate to other countries, or at least send their children abroad. Even though they are unwilling to part with their homeland, “being patriotic” is a painful choice. But I have always thought that the transformations and pain we experience, and the injustice and suffering we endure, are what we must go through. To make the country better, one, or even several generations, are bound to be the stepping-stones.
I am no embodiment of justice, nor an anti-system hero. I am only an advocate for social change and a journalist who still holds his ground. I don’t want to see one day, when those young graduates of journalism departments enter the profession, that they point to our backbones and say, “You were the one who chose to flinch and compromise, what makes you think you can educate us on following through on our journalistic ideals?” I don’t want to see that one day when our children suffer more injustice, they look into our eyes and say, “Why didn’t you dare to speak out loud for the truth?” I don’t want to come to the day when we are old and feeble, regretting in the setting sun that China has become worse and worse because of our cowardice and the conscience-in-hiding.
I hope we can be looked upon by future generations as the generation that had the guts to be truthful and that upheld its convictions despite oppression, although we did not have to sacrifice lives;
I hope the media of this era can be looked upon by future generations as a group of idealists who searched for direction, torch in hand, in the darkness before the dawn and who trudged in the swamps, plodded on through the rivers, exhausted but never gave up;
I hope that the China of our time will be looked upon by future generations as a China that endured the difficulties and pains of change to follow the trend of the times and met the expectations of its people by making the nation truly belong to each citizen.
I have spelled out a lot of my “true feelings about this era,” and they are also agonies compressed in me. Finally, I want to thank the teams and the colleagues I have worked with:
Thank the Commentary Department for turning me from a young novice to a professional journalist and installing in me journalistic ideas that will benefit me for the rest of my life;
I would like to thank Zhang Wei, Wang Lijun, Lu Zhijia and Li Lun, some of the best producers at CCTV who have mentored me. While their names might be unknown, their convictions are hard to find in this time of ours, and they gave me the courage to keep moving forward when I wanted to give way;
I would like to thank the News Weekly where I had grown as a journalist, and where my heart still belongs;
I would like to thank News 1 + 1, I’m proud of this team, of which I was once a member, and that has upheld the journalistic standard and baseline against tremendous pressure;
I would like to thank 24 Hours, the first team that I led, also the youngest team in the Commentary Department. We had upheld ourselves to be a respectable news program;
I would like to thank the Face to Face team, with which I spent my last days in CCTV. We have stood up, and held up our positions, together;
Thanks to all the hosts who I have worked with: Bai Yansong, Qiu Qiming, Li Xiaomeng, Xiao Yan, Hou Feng, Chai Jing, Dong Qian, Wang Ning, Gu Bing, Zhang Quanling, Zhang Yu, Lao Chunyan, Ouyang Xiadan, Chai Lu, Shui Junyi, Kang Hui, A Qiu, Sun Haoyin, and more. We have tried to realize our journalistic ideals in each show we have made over the last ten years;
The directors and technicians who have put up with my bad temper in live shows and in the editing rooms, I thank you for your tolerance of a perfectionist’s fussiness;
I appreciate those colleagues from other departments who showed their care and support when I was twice reprimanded. They gained nothing for supporting me, but supported me for shared ideals. What more is there for me to appreciate than having such colleagues?
As for CCTV, I’m not inclined to thank. Looking back at the work I have done over the past ten years, I have a clear conscience, and I deserved what you have given me which did not come without pain.
One cannot choose the time you live in, but you can choose what to do to change it. Many young journalists want to “change the-here-and-now” through their reporting. No, you cannot. Your reporting may have the appearance of changing a little bit of something, but you are not changing the essence of society. Therefore, being a journalist in our time, it is more important to “influence the future,” that is, using your mind, attitude and ideas to influence everyone who may have an impact on the future, to help drive society as a whole toward a consensus. That’s how real change will come!
My leave is only an inevitable outcome, because for the time being my journalistic ideals have lost their compass here. For those of you who will come here to work, when you see the five characters of CCTV’s name, you will not only feel a dream come true but sense more responsibility. More importantly, do remember there used to be two more words before those five – China!
Like everyone, I hope to become a respectable person. My sincerest hope is that, in a future not too far from now, CCTV will become a trustworthy, influential media organization that speaks the truth for the country, the society, and the public and is respected. A CCTV like that will live up to its name as a national media outlet; only a CCTV like that can be a place where every journalist wants to work.
Chen Meng (陈虻), the spiritual leader of my generation [of CCTV journalists], once said, “You might have gone very far, but never forget why you had set out.” I will leave these words to my colleagues, to myself, to the bosses perching high above, and to everyone of our time. You might be in a hurry to get somewhere, focusing on your journey; perhaps you have to do a lot of things you have to; perhaps you are always falling short of your own expectations. But if you don’t know where the sun is, you will be putting up with darkness all your life.
If possible, free of the interference of power, I hope I can still be a journalist after leaving CCTV, because, while my path can change, the direction and the ideals remain the same, unflagging.
Goodbye to CCTV, goodbye to my ten years there. At this new start of my life, I feel gratitude and no remorse. Let this be my farewell to CCTV, also a bumpy footnote of our time. The ten years were a record of the difficult journey we are undertaking, and that of the absurdities we live with in this society. While they are insignificant, they give food for thoughts.
To me, they were a section of my life. I will move on with the indelible marks they have left on me, and I will take with me my convictions, high flying in the air, to search for “Light.”
(The lyrics of Light, a song by rock singer Wang Feng [汪峰], at the end of the essay are not translated.)
Wang Qinglei (王青雷), until late November, 2013, was a CCTV producer.
(Translated by John, Liz Carter, Yaqiu Wang, and Yaxue Cao)