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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08BEIJING4292 2008-11-21 11:37:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
Cable title:  

SUSPENSION OF "PRO-CHINA" REPORTER AT GERMAN

Tags:   PROP PHUM PGOV PREL CH GM 
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1. (C) The suspension of a Chinese journalist from the
German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle, allegedly for
making public statements in defense of PRC policies,
has been covered extensively by the Chinese official
media amid charges of Western "hypocrisy" regarding
press freedom (refs A, B). Li Changchun, a Politburo
Standing Committee Member and China's propaganda czar,
reportedly encouraged reporting of the story as a way
to highlight the West's "double standards." The case
resonates among some PRC reporters and intellectuals,
contacts say, because of frustration over perceived
anti-China "bias" in the Western media. End Summary.

GERMAN PRESS FREEDOM "A JOKE"


--------------------------





2. (U) China's official media has devoted significant
coverage (refs A, B) to the suspension of Zhang
Danhong, the deputy director of the Chinese language
service of German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
According to PRC media reports, Zhang was suspended in
August after she made public comments supportive of
Beijing's Tibet policies and critical of German
Chancellor Angela Merkel's approach to China. In
reporting Zhang's suspension, Chinese newspapers have
also highlighted the firing of Dieter Klaus Hennig
from a German sports news agency, also allegedly
because of his "pro-China" bias. A strongly worded
commentary published by the official Xinhua News
Agency August 29 said the "suppression" of "pro-China
reporting" proved "Germany's freedom of expression was
merely a joke. What is more worrying is that anti-
China sentiment may be hiding in the shadow of Nazi
racism."

CHINA'S PROPAGANDA CZAR "PERSONALLY INTERESTED"


--------------------------

--



3. (C) Zhou Qing'an (strictly protect), a professor at
Tsinghua University's Center for International
Communication Studies and a frequent editorial
contributor to Beijing's Xinjing Bao (The Beijing
News) newspaper, told PolOff October 28 that Politburo
Standing Committee Member Li Changchun, who is in
charge of China's propaganda apparatus, took a
"personal interest" in Zhang Danhong's plight. In a
high-level meeting with propaganda officials, which
Zhou said he learned about from his editors at Xinjing
Bao, Li Changchun reportedly stressed that China's
media should pay special attention to the case and use
it to highlight "Western hypocrisy" and "double
standards" regarding free speech. Ironically, Li's
interest in the Deutsche Welle reporter put Chinese
propaganda leaders in an awkward position, according
to Zhou, because Zhang Danhong was involved in the
1989 Tiananmen democracy movement, eventually seeking
permanent residency in Germany as a result. Zhou
speculated that Li Changchun must have been unaware of
Zhang's background.



4. (C) Soon after Li Changchun's expression of
interest in the Deutsche Welle controversy, Zhou
Qing'an said his editors at Xinjing Bao asked him to
write an editorial about the case. A version of
Zhou's editorial was printed October 7 in the Global
Times (Huanqiu Shibao), a nationalistic international
affairs paper run by the People's Daily, and again in
the People's Daily itself October 8. Zhou complained,
however, that editors at the Global Times and People's
Daily "heavily altered" his original piece, changing
"800 of the 1200 characters," to make it more "hard-
line." Zhou said his original comments alluding to
the need for China to also respect freedom of speech
were cut. When Zhou protested, he was told that it
was "an honor to have an article printed in the
People's Daily." While Zhang Danhong's case presented
an attractive opening for China to protest "media
bias" overseas, many Chinese do not understand that,
as a state-run broadcaster, Deutsche Welle is not
representative of Western media as a whole, Zhou

BEIJING 00004292 002 OF 002


remarked.

FRUSTRATION WITH WESTERN MEDIA "BIAS"


--------------------------





5. (C) Other contacts were highly skeptical that high-
level leaders such as Li Changchun had actively
promoted coverage of the Deutsche Welle story, instead
arguing that the PRC media would "naturally" be
interested in a story highlighting "anti-China bias."
For example, Chen Hao (protect), the Editor-in-Chief
of the International Herald Leader (Guoji Xianqu
Daobao), a paper run by the Xinhua News Agency that
has also covered Zhang Dandong's suspension, said the
Chinese media's interest in the story was
"spontaneous" and not the result of propaganda
directives. Unlike most Western journalists, Chen
said, Zhang Dandong works in Chinese language media
and has an audience inside China. (Note: Chinese
authorities do not censor Deutsche Welle as
aggressively as they do the Voice of American and
Radio Free Asia. With the exception of some sensitive
periods, such as the anniversary of the June 4, 1989
Tiananmen crackdown, Internet users in China can
readily download Deutsche Welle podcasts.) While
Chinese journalists are well aware of the limited
press freedoms in their own country, Chen said, they
nevertheless feel frustrated by anti-China "bias" in
the Western media. This sentiment, Chen asserted, has
prompted the local media to keep Zhang's suspension in
the news.

STORY RESONATES AMONG "LEFTIST" INTELLECTUALS


--------------------------





6. (C) Wang Chong (protect), an international affairs
columnist for the Communist Youth League paper, the
China Youth Daily, said that, while he was personally
unaware of any direct involvement by propaganda czar
Li Changchun in generating coverage, the fact that the
People's Daily reported the Deutsche Welle story
indicated that "high-level leaders felt it was
important." While "average Chinese do not care" about
Zhang's suspension, Wang said the story has
nevertheless gained a great deal of attention among
journalists and "leftist intellectuals" who are eager
to denounce the West's "false" ideals of freedom of
the press.
RANDT