Archive for March 14th, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Voice of Germany: Probe still in Progress?

Zhang Danhong, former deputy manager of the Voice of Germany‘s Chinese department (but still working for the Chinese department, I thought), wrote an article the day before yesterday, about a press conference with Frank Appel, chief executive of the Deutsche Post. That’s no China-related topic, and I’m wondering if she has been transferred to a different department within the Voice (Deutsche Welle), or if this article is just by the way. In December, she interviewed Hu Xingdou (胡星斗), professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

Matthias von Hein, formerly head of the station’s Chinese department, reportedly was to change his job and switch to the central editorial department “this year”. So far, the station still refers to him as head of Deutsche Welle’s China Service.

It’s guessing work for me – can’t find a great deal of information on the internet in general, or on the station’s website in particular. As for the investigation work on the Chinese department’s past records, I see no information either. Possibly, all parties have come to the conclusion that the station wasn’t Beijing’s propaganda mouthpiece after all – but if so, I can only find a statement by parliament’s Social Democrats who actually made a – more or less final – statement in the Voice of Germany’s favor.

My impression (but that’s a vague one) is that neither the critics of the Voice of Germany, nor its defenders, neither the German, nor the Chinese media are still too interested in the story. That said, China Radio International (CRI) still conveys the image of an impeccable Chinese journalist who was attacked by German sectarians, although the Chinese foreign broadcaster does so rather by the way. In an article on the latest novel by Günter Grass earlier this month, CRI also refers to his support for Zhang Danhong.

For the Voice of Germany itself, this was or is an important process. One can think of it as a quality test.

Open communication is the best foundation for trust – and an international radio station needs the trust of its audience. Mrs Zhang’s personal rights – legal matters of privacy for example – may sometimes be more important than openness. But whereever possible, the Voice of Germany should let us know the decisions it takes, and for which purposes it takes them. The Chinese official media won’t stop building legends, and the Voice of Germany’s listeners in China understandably will have questions.

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Related: Zhang Danhong remains in the News, Mar 14

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Voice of Germany – Zhang Danhong remains in the News

Zhang Danhong (张丹红) remains in the news in China, though in a new, lower-profile context. On March 4th, China Radio International (CRI) published an online article on the latest book by German author Günter GrassUnterwegs von Deutschland nach Deutschland: This globally respected Nobel prize laureate who kept asking himself and his country hard questions, once again reflects deeply on Germanys unification process and its political and social implications.

The CRI article also refers to the authors Danzig Trilogy (Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, Dog Years): with the trilogy, Grass researched the underlying roots of Nazism and Fascism brought about by German nationalism.

After a reference to the views of Günter Grass on the potential of a reformed enlightenment movement and the role enlightenment should play in countering the current dominance of neo-liberalism, the CRI article comes to the point which really seems to matter: Grass’ views on China. And, just by the way, on the Voice of Germany and the Zhang Danhong case.

Last year, when Zhang Danhong, in charge of the Voice of Germany’s Chinese service, took a neutral stance concerning the case of Tibet and was blamed by many people and was then dismissed by the Voice of Germany, the VoG’s Chinese service also came under review. Some well-known Germans who felt with Zhang Danhong then wrote an open letter to parliament in support of her. Grass was one of them. It is said that he looked into the case very carefully and only signed the open letter after careful consideration.

The CRI article contains inaccuracies, beginning with the description of  Zhang Danhongs position as in charge of the Chinese service (she was in fact deputy manager), to her “dismissal” (she was suspended for days or weeks, and lost her position as deputy manager, but she wasnt fired). But what strikes me as most weird is how CRI is making a connection between poetry, enlightenment, Günter Grass and Zhang Danhong. Mr Grass may have some personal flaws of his own, and he wasn’t always accurate in the account of his own past, but if  he wanted to publish an interview with himself, he would probably inform us readers in advance.

After all, he is a professional.

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