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Please Speak Truth to Power -- Chinese Scholars and Journalists’ Response and Signature Drive to the Open Letter by 49 German Scholars

请向权力说真话 -- 中国学者和新闻工作者回应德国49名学人的公开信(并征集签名)
October 18, 2008

We are a group of Chinese freelance writers and journalists living in different parts of the world. We wish to respond to the open letter that was signed by 49 German scholars relating to the Deutsche Welle incident.

On October 9, 49 individuals, most of them German sinologists but also including some political figures, writers and journalists, published an open letter to Deutsche Welle and to the German Bundestag, defending the objectivity of the news media and the rights of an unfairly treated individual, Zhang Danhong. The letter included the following main points: 1) defending the freedom of expression and rights of the Deutsche Welle journalist Zhang Danhong; 2) censuring the "Federal Republic Writers' Association" and Chinese dissidents for a previous open letter that had supposedly demanded a background investigation into certain Deutsche Welle employees, on the basis that this violated the principle of press freedom, and referring to the Chinese dissidents who wrote the letter as Falun Gong practitioners; 3) alleging that the objective of the open letter was to prevent normal exchanges between the outside world and China, and impartial reporting about China.

Many of the signatories of the open letter are middle-aged individuals who experienced the 1968 student movements in Europe; now the backbone of European society, they inevitably tend toward "political correctness." Their open letter violated a basic principle of the news media and academia: speaking truth to power.

Zhang Danhong had the good fortune to engage in journalistic work in a free country, but she violated her own conscience and professional ethics by becoming a spokesperson for the autocratic regime that suppressed, shut out and even imprisoned members of her own journalistic profession. Zhang Danhong could not but have known that before the Beijing Olympics, many Chinese journalists and writers had been censored, placed under house arrest, removed from their cities of residence or even imprisoned, yet she continued to ingratiate herself to the totalitarian regime in an open forum with such words: "The Chinese Communist Party has contributed more than any other political force to the implementation of Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." This was not only irresponsible, but a serious deception, and it was completely understandable that others should request an investigation into her background. This issue is a completely different matter from violating "press freedom." Deutsche Welle was in fact as lenient as it could be toward Zhang in the handling of this matter.

The open letter by the 49 scholars posed questions regarding how to treat China's development and rise, and demanded that the German news media report impartially on China. This specious statement sidesteps the real issue. What constitutes impartiality? Is it only reporting positive and not negative news about China, as the Chinese media are required to do? Can it be that the German media's "muck-raking" reports about China are simply biased? We can pose a corresponding question: how should others have reported impartially on the rise of Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union several decades ago?

Please think back on Germany's history: If after World War II Germany had not undergone entnazifizieren, or denazification, if the perpetrators of war crimes had not been obliged to undergo the Nuremberg Trials, if Willy Brandt had not knelt in mourning and repentance before the memorial to the Jews murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto, then the German people would never have recovered from the spiritual damage caused by Nazism, and their post-war economic resurgence could never have been accepted by the rest of the world. Indeed, was not the 1968 student movement demanding this very "historical truth"?

Please look back at the estimated 20 to 30 million innocent victims of violence and humiliation in the course of China's land reform movement, anti-rightist campaign, great famine, Cultural Revolution and educated youth sent down to the countryside. Up to the present day, the Chinese government has not allowed any investigation into these crimes, nor has it uttered a word of apology. Since economic reform began in the 1980s, whenever there has been any social unrest, the government's response has been to suppress it through police and military action. From the 1983 "strike hard" anti-crime crackdown to the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement to the 2006 Taishi Village incident, the Chinese government has set itself in opposition to the Chinese people. China's current image of economic prosperity is built to a great extent on the toil of an immense body of impoverished migrant laborers without basic employment protections or health benefits. The Chinese government has taken over the role previously held by the landlords and capitalists as the harsh and merciless exploiter and plunderer of the people's assets and labor.

Yes, today's China is much more "free" than in the Mao Zedong era; back then, sullying a newspaper bearing the image of Chairman Mao was punishable by death. Today a portion of people lives better off than before, but social injustice, official corruption and social unrest have increased at a breath-taking rate. People have been compelled to rise up in defense of their own rights. The blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, the rights defense lawyers Guo Feixiong and Gao Zhisheng, the writer Du Daobin, the journalist Shi Tao, the AIDS activist Hu Jia -- they have all stood on the side of the common people, but the government has sent them all to prison.

Respected scholars, you who live in a country that maintains the values of liberty, when presented with a choice between the powerful persecutors and the powerless victims, why do you choose to stand on the side of the powerful? Why do you choose to defend the rights of Zhang Danhong, who faces only the dismissal from her deputy leader position in Deutsche Welle, when you have never spoken up for the rights of the heavily sentenced Chen Guangcheng or Shi Tao? Gazing aloofly at the Chinese people who have been deprived of their basic rights, have you ever spoken in defense of them because of their ill treatment? Are you any different than the French eminent writer Roman Roland, who in the 30s confronted the critics of the international PEN, but kept his eyes closed to the human rights abuses of the Nazi regime?

As sinologists, you have exhausted all effort to learn the Chinese language, and in the process you have forgotten the German adjective used to describe the independent intellectual: "unbequem" -- causing discomfort or unease. The true intellectual will always stand in opposition to those in power, and an unconditionally totalitarian government should be subjected to even more monitoring and restraint, with intellectuals causing all the more unease to the holders of power. We deeply regret that you 49 signatories have not followed in the profound German literary tradition, and have not benefited from the indirect influence of the loftiest ideals of Chinese culture. Your open letter has encouraged the propaganda machine of the Chinese dictatorship and provided it munitions with which to attack the democracy in Germany as well as the Chinese dissidents, while leaving China's ordinary people and defenders of justice feeling disappointed, betrayed and humiliated.

Tienchi Martin-Liao, Director of the Laogai Research Foundation, Washington, DC, Editor-in-Chief of Arcus Chinatexte, Bochum
Wing Mui Tsoi, Editor-in-Chief of Open Magazine, Hong,Kong
Yi Zheng , writer, Chairman of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, Washington DC
Yisan Wu, Writer, Hong Kong
Xiaogang Zhang, General Secretary of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, freelance writer, Sydney
Lian Yang, Poet, Board member of the International PEN Center, London
Yu Zhang,Ph D. Editor-in Chief of Bulletin of the Chinese in Nord Europe, Coordinator for the Writers in Prison Committee, ICPC, Stockholm
Harry Wu, Executive Director of the Laogai Research Foundation, Publisher of the China Information Center, Washington DC
Chu Cai, Poet, Editor-in-Chief of Wild Grass, Editor of Democratic China
Lili Yang, Ph.D. Editor-in-Chief of Guancha website (
Kuide Chen, Ph.D., Scholar, Executive Director of the Princeton China Initiative, Editor-in-Chief of China in Perspective (, Princeton/Washington DC
Emily Wu, Author of A Feather in Storm (Feder in Stom, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag) , San Francisco
Jiazhen Qi, Writer, Melbourne
Wa Jing, Poet, California
Patrick Kar-wai Poon, former journalist of South China Morning Post, member of ICPC, Hong Kong
Luoying Hai, Writer, Melbourne
Pin g Hu, writer, Editor-in-Chief of Beijing Spring, New York
Yongyi Song, Writer, Historian, California
Nan Zhao, Freelance, Japan
David, Ding, writer
Liyong Sun, Freelance, Sydney
Yue Jiang, Freelance, New York
Minru Yan, Writer, Zurich
Yue Sun, Freelance, Moskow
JIanhong Li, Writer, Shanghai/Stockholm
Shenglin Wang, Financial analysist, Chicago
Xiaodong Liu, Freelance, Chicago
Xue Sheng, Writer, journalitst, Toranto
Pei Xu, Ph.D., Writer, Cologne
Rongfen Wang, Ph.D.,Writer, scholar, Wiesbaden
Fengshi Yang , Ph.D. Composer, Chicago
Dan Wang, Ph.D. Scholar, Publisher of Beijing Spring, New York
... ...

If you are willing to co-sign this open letter, please contact:


10 月9日,以德国汉学家为主,并包括其他一些政界和文化新闻界的49名人士发出了一封致德国之声台长和德国联邦议会的公开信,要捍卫新闻的客观性和受到不公正待遇者(张丹红)的权利。其主要内容是:

1, 为德国之声记者张丹红的发言权辩护,保护她的权利。

2, 责备此前分别发表过公开信的“联邦共和国作家协会” 和华人异议分子,认为他们提出对德国之声某些工作人员进行背景调查的要求有违新闻自由的原则;同时指称写信的中国异议分子是法轮功成员。

3,声称写公开信 者的目的是要阻止外界和中国的正常交流,和媒体对中国的公正报道。

签名者中有很多是人到中年、经历了欧洲1968年学生运动的人士,他们现在是欧洲社会的中坚分子, 然而其思路难免有“政治正确”的模式倾向。公开信违背了一项新闻和学术最基本的原则:向权力说真话。


49位学者的公开信提出如何看待中国的发展和崛起的问题,要求德国新闻界对中国进行公 正的报道。这是避重就轻、似是而非的一种说法。何为公正?难道只有跟着中共媒体的报喜不报忧那样,德国媒体的中国报道才算公正吗?难道德国媒体对中国的 “扒粪”,仅仅是出于偏见吗?我们也可以提出一个类似的问题:如何看待当年德国日本和苏联的发展和崛起,并进行公正报道呢?





汉学家们穷其精力来学汉语,却忘记了自己的德语里有个用来形容独立知识分子的形容词 “unbequem”(令人不舒服、不安)。真正的知识分子永远应该站在权力的对立面,特别是不受制约的极权政府的对立面,去进行监督和掣肘。49位签名者,我们深感遗憾,你们没有秉承德国深厚的人文传统,也没有间接受到汉文化里志士仁人的熏染。你们不应当扮演这种助纣为虐的不光彩角色。望你们三思。


* 廖天琪, 劳改基金会主任, 德国《弓桥译从》主编,华盛顿
* 蔡咏梅,香港《开放》杂志主编
* 郑义,作家,独立中文笔会会长,华盛顿
* 武夷三,自由撰稿人,香港
* 张小刚,独立中文笔会秘书长,自由撰稿人,悉尼
* 杨炼,诗人,国际笔会理事, 伦敦
* 张裕博士,《北欧华人通讯》主编,独立中文笔会狱委协调人,斯德哥尔摩
* 吴弘达,劳改基金会执行主任,中国信息中心发行人,华盛顿
* 蔡楚,诗人,《野草》主编,《民主中国》编辑
* 杨莉藜博士,《观察》主编,华盛顿
* 陈奎德博士, 学者,普林斯顿中国学社执行主席,《纵览中国》主编
* 巫一毛 , 作家(《暴风雨中一羽毛》),旧金山
* 齐家贞, 作家,墨尔本
* 井蛙,诗人,加州
* 潘嘉偉, 前《南華早報》記者, 獨立中文筆會會員, 香港
* 海落英, 作家,墨尔本
* 胡平 ,作家,北京之春主编, 纽约
* 宋永毅 , 作家,历史学家, 加州
* 赵南, 自由撰稿人, 日本
* 丁强, 作家
* 孙立勇, 自由撰稿人,悉尼
* 江月,作家,纽约
* 颜敏如,作家,瑞士
* 孙越, 自由撰稿人,莫斯科
* 李剑虹(小乔),作家,上海/斯德哥尔摩,
* 王胜林, 金融风险分析师, 芝加哥
* 刘晓东,自由撰稿人,芝加哥
* 盛雪,作家、记者,多伦多
* 徐沛博士, 作家,科隆
* 王容芬博士,作家,维斯巴登
* 楊逢時博士,作曲家, 芝加哥
* 王丹博士,学者,北京之春发行人,纽约


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