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The Chinese People Are Talking, But Is The World Listening? By Yang Hengjun

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热度1412票 时间:2007年7月02日 21:56

[in translation]

One chance encounter is a coincidence.  Two chance encounters is no longer coincidental.  Within just over one month's time, I met the founder and the Chinese-language editor of Global Voices Online in two separate chance encounters, which made me look at that website with increased respect.

In early February, I went to Hong Kong to attend the Asian-Pacific regional conference of the International PEN and I was due to give a speech.  When I got on the podium, I observed that there were two empty chairs to the left.  The chairs had been reserved for Xiao Qiao from Shanghai and Dagong from Shenzhen, but they had been prevented from attending.  My heart was obviously as empty as those chairs on this account.  Then I turned around and then I saw that a foreign woman with an oriental attraction was seated on my right.  I smiled and I composed myself to deliver my speech.

But I could not fully recover myself, because in that brief glance, I somehow discovered that this foreign woman looked familiar.  It seemed that we had known each other before; in fact, we must have a close friendship.  But she was sitting on my right side and I could only see her profile.  There was no reason for me to keep turning around to look at her.  After all, there were more than a hundred people looking at us.

When the master of ceremony introduced us, I suddenly understood.  The woman on my right is the person whom I woke up every morning for many years to look at before I even washed my face!  I had been watching her for many years ...

This woman was the former China bureau chief of CNN, Rebecca MacKinnon.  During that period, I got news about China almost everyday from CNN.  I did that when I was in China and Hong Kong, and when I went overseas, even in the United States.  In the United States, there was not a lot of news about China.  But CNN had some news almost every day, and the Beijing news came from this round-faced and attractive western woman.  Most of the time, I kept my eyes on her mouth (in order to practice pronunciation) and I paid attention to what she said.  So I never realized how young she was (she was supposed to have become the CNN Beijing bureau chief when she was still in her twenties).  Besides, in my memory, the Rebecca on the television screen was always reporting serious news and I had practically never seen her smile.  So she looked completely different from the smiling person next to me on that day.

I did not know when Rebecca left CNN.  When the Internet came around, I seldom watched television because I got more information and news from the Internet.  The title of my speech was My Publisher -- The Internet.  It was significant that Rebecca's speech that day was also about the Internet.  She spoke about freedom of press and speech on the Internet, and the Chinese and other authorities who used high technology to suppress freedom of speech and press on the Internet.

I had to be wistful about how the times, things and people have changed.  Rebecca provided me with a sense of familiarity.  After all, I had persisted in watching CNN over those years and, in the latter years, I was specifically waiting for Rebecca's news reporting from Beijing.  Without exaggeration, during that period, even my English pronunciation was influenced by CNN, including Rebecca who frequently stood solemnly on Tiananmen Square.

After the conference, Rebecca told me that she had left CNN and she is presently doing teaching and research at the Hong Kong University.  She is the founder of a website.  When I returned to mainland China, I went to visit that website, Global Voices Online.

Rebecca left CNN and started a website in virtual space.  This website is obviously not as famous as CNN, so I was obviously somewhat sorry.  But an event that took place after I returned to Guangzhou made me feel better.

About three weeks ago, a friend recommended an essay for me to read.  This was the special feature article How Foreign Correspondents Covered the Two Congresses.  There was a short paragraph with the heading: "Which is more important: democracy or livelihood?"  There was this paragraph: CNN correspondent FlorCruz said, "But compared to free education, medical insurance and inequality of wealth, democracy cannot be said to be the most urgent thing that the common Chinese people want."

My friend asked me whether these big international media have fallen?  Or does Beijing actually have the ability to co-opt them?  Do they fail to notice the hundreds of thousands of acts of violent resistance each year?  Do they pretend not to see that an undemocratic system creates corruption, wealth disparity and social injustice?  Can a CNN reporter not see the connection between free education, medical insurance, wealth disparity and democracy in a country without democracy and individual human rights?

The big international media want to survive and make money in China and they are capable of doing anything for that purpose.  In this essay, the correspondents from CNN and other international media are happily praising the simplification of the interviewing process!  This reporter forgot that it was wrong to have rigorous controls to begin with.  Besides, he must surely be aware that Beijing knows how to put on a show by showering small favors on big media such as CNN.  Meanwhile, even as these big international media reporters are heaping nauseating praise on Beijing becoming more open, Jie Mu who was the Nanjing correspondent for Boxun (a website started by a Chinese person in the United States) just had his press card confiscated without cause.

A small citizen like me is beyond getting angry over this sort of thing anymore.  But I thought about Rebecca who had resigned as the CNN Beijing bureau chief.  I don't know why she left.  But I am obviously happy for her.  At a time when big media such as CNN are carefully dancing with the wolves in Beijing, Rebecca's website is creating a different voice on the Internet.

Global Voices is a bridge which connects two main bodies in the world that had always been separated.  On one side, there is the vast virtual space based mainly upon civilian reporters who use news websites, blogs and BBS, especially about the events in those countries that lack freedom of press and speech.  On the other side, there is the broad number of readers, especially those readers in the western world.  Global Voices Online has a team of high-quality translators.  I can see all sorts of news events and subjects that people care about, but had been intentionally or unintentionally ignored by mainstream media -- events in Kampuchea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa and North Korea, and obviously plenty more from China.  Topics that interest many Chinese citizens are translated in timely manner for western readers.


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