Deutsche Welle, Open Letter: Huanqiu wades into the Details

Following the People’s Daily‘s English edition (with an article published on May 21), Huanqiu Shibao today reprints much, or all of the open letter “published on the internet” (前不久通过互联网发表 [的] 公开信) [i. e. particularly by German online paper Neue Rheinische Zeitung (NRhZ, see previous post), plus some less established websites – JR].

Huanqiu Shibao:

Summary – Four ethnic Chinese who formerly worked for the “Voice of Germany” have recently published an open letter on the internet, and based on their personal experiences, condemned the “Voice of Germany’s” defiance of ethical journalistic standards, its review and ousting of Chinese staff, its conducting thought examinations and political examinations, installing a secret internal “supervisor”, purging staff “with different views”, and using standards of ideology and the question if they did or didn’t criticize China in interviews and news coverage as a standard. The open letter believes that the “Voice of Germany’s” Chinese department has become some kind of political tool. As it is a rather long letter, we are publishing it in two parts.

The open letter’s main points, according to Huanqiu Shibao  [all links within the account added by JR]:

  1. The non-renewal of existing contracts and dismissals had initially been explained with budget cuts, but several other explanations had been added once the ones about the budget had been proven false. In fact, the measures taken by the Welle had been belated consequences of a previous brawl, about Zhang Danhong, in 2008. It is also pointed out that what Zhang had said had basically been similar to statements by Die Zeit China correspondent [Georg Blume]
  2. Critics of the DW’s Chinese department had demanded examinations of the staff’s backgrounds, including family people / parents, re party membership etc., and reviews of how the DW advocated human rights. As seen from outside, the Welle had turned such demands down, but actually, the station hadn’t only satisfied the demands. Zhang had been defended only half-heartedly, and the Wickert report (compiled by former television anchor Ulrich Wickert), asked for by DW director Erik Bettermann, had never been made public.
  3. Pressure had been exerted on staff, unsubstantiated criticism of their work had been expressed by a temporary head of the Chinese department (Golte-Schröder, in charge from December 2008 to December 2009, and chiefly head of the DW Asia department). She is also criticized in the open letter for not speaking Chinese) and for not being able to judge the staff’s work, having relied on a Chinese national (戴英, Dai Ying), instead.
  4. While People’s Daily’s English edition, in an article of May 21, doesn’t mention the name of a secret supervisor, Huanqiu Shibao now quotes the open letter’s paragraph in question in full, including the name of Jörg Rudolph (约尔格.鲁道夫), who was controversial (umstritten in German, 很有争议 in Huanqiu’s Chinese translation) in academic circles. Rudolph had been – or was still – in charge of rating articles, making sure that nothing that could be pro-China in dissidents’ views would appear again (seine Tätigkeit soll vielmehr sicherstellen, dass in den Beiträgen der Redaktion schon der Anschein einer chinafreundlichen Berichterstattung in den Augen der Dissidenten vermieden wird / 鲁道夫的工作并不是要避免文章语法或格式错误,而仅仅是要保证中文部不再出现任何在异见人士看来“亲华”的文章). It was also in a discussion between Rudolph and the Chinese department staff, according to the open letter, that Rudolph expressed the expectation that Taiwan would, in the future, be referred to as an independent state. The open letter points out that this was not in accordance with the policy of Germany’s foreign office.
  5. The staff had been told, or asked,  to commit themselves to certain goals or standards (neither the goals nor the order or request seem to be described  clearly in the open letter, but the impression is stated that the aim of the measure had been to create or add pressure). In the end, the personnel department and the employee committee had decided that the commitment to be given was legally dubious, and was retracted (Nach der gemeinsamen Überprüfung von Personalrat und Personalabteilung wurde die Unterschriftsaktion als rechtlich bedenklich bewertet und zurückgezogen). Three of the five who hadn’t signed were among those who had been dismissed by Deutsche Welle.
  6. Outsiders could get the impression that in the case of Zhang Danhong, political issues and human rights had been the heart of the matter, write the open letter’s authors. However, there had never been differences between the Chinese department’s editorial staff and the leadership of the Voice of Germany (or Deutsche Welle, DW), concerning the importance of human rights which, the staff, too, had always believed, should be the basis for China’s future. Rather, matters of professionalism were been at the center of the dispute. (作为“中国论战”和“张丹红事件”的旁观者,大家可能都很自然地认为事件跟政治取向、人权理念的差异有关。但事实并非如此,因为所有相关记者都认为,中国 的未来应立足于自由民主的基本秩序,以人权、民主为准则。在诸如对人权影响的看法,以及“批评中国存在破坏人权的行为”等问题上,被解雇的员工与编辑部的 新领导层的看法是一致的。)

This is no rendition of the open letter in full, but might give you an idea about its central issues – until China Daily or the People’s Daily’s English edition provide a full English translation. Addenda or corrections (via comments) are welcome. The German original can be found here.

For more Deutsche Welle-related information from this blog, click this tag, and brace for dozens of posts. Not all of them (but most of them, I guess) are related to the Welle’s Chinese department.

Update: search results, May 26, 2011 ("Voice of Germany" "open letter")

Update: search results, May 26, 2011 ("Voice of Germany" "open letter")


Ai Weiwei and Sino-German Relations, Adam Cathcart, May 25, 2011
Letter to H. E. (2008), Dorks on Duty, April 9, 2010

7 Responses to “Deutsche Welle, Open Letter: Huanqiu wades into the Details”

  1. I may be missing the point for all the trees here, but what is the difference between what Deutsche Welle was doing/saying and Auswaertiges Amt aims?


  2. Adam, you are referring to this line from the open letter, right?

    It was also in a discussion between Rudolph and the Chinese department staff, according to the open letter, that Rudolph expressed the expectation that Taiwan would, in the future, be referred to as an independent state. The open letter points out that this was not in accordance with the policy of Germany’s foreign office

    The point is that Germany adheres to the one-China policy – the Federal Republic established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1972 (no idea if Germany added some footnotes, as Japan did, for example.)

    Given that Deutsche Welle gets its budget from the Federal Republic, that there is a Deutsche Welle law (federal law, defining the station’s scope of operations), that a number of the broadcasting commission members are politicians, and that the station needs to get approval from the lower house of Federal Parliament for its periodic plans (after the federal government added an opinion), the authors of the open letter apparently saw a nexus between the one-China policy and a need for the Deutsche Welle – as a federal institution – to refer to Taiwan in correspondence with that policy. This list of potential reasons isn’t exhaustive, btw.
    (That Taiwan would be referred to as a sovereign state, in the context of the open letter, seems to mean – but I can’t tell for sure – that the alleged “monitor” wanted Taiwan to be referred to as “Taiwan” – and maybe “China” as “China”, not as “mainland”, etc.. The open letter itself doesn’t elaborate here.)

    It is widely agreed that the Welle is – to an uncertain extent – in an area of conflict between mere journalism, and “public diplomacy” etc. – and by 2009 at least, and probably still now, there seems to be no agreement if continuous adjudication (concerning public broadcasters’ autonomy, and which has been evolving for at least five decades by now) applies to the Deutsche Welle, too, or only to domestic public broadcasters.



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