Zhu Hong‘s case was rejected by the federal labor court in Erfurt on Thursday for not being conclusive. In the court’s view, Zhu hadn’t been discriminated against for her convictions, because it didn’t matter if and where something like a Communist worldview still existed (Es könne dahinstehen, so das BAG, ob und wo heute noch eine “kommunistische Weltanschauung” o.ä. existiert). (In this context, the court apparently confirmed that Zhu had no Communist convictions and was no member of the CCP.)
Even if Deutsche Welle wanted more journalistic distance between itself and the government in Beijing, and even if this had been the reason for Deutsche Welle to terminate cooperation with Zhu, this did not mean that Zhu had been discriminated against for her convictions.
Also, sympathy for a country didn’t spell sympathy for a party behind a government.
Zhu Hong is one of four former Deutsche Welle journalists or editors who lost their jobs or contracts in 2010 and 2011. At least two of the four, Zhu Hong and Wang Fengbo, went to court. Zhu Hong lost at the first instance at the local labor court in Bonn, in March 2011, and again at the second instance, at the Landesarbeitsgericht (state labor court) in Cologne, early in 2012. Zhu had argued that the termination of her work for Deutsche Welle – after some 23 years – had come in the wake of the Zhang Danhong controversy, which had been lasting since summer 2008. The controversy, with Deutsche Welle, Chinese or Chinese-born dissidents in Germany and overseas, and a group of German authors as substantial participants, had reportedly compelled Deutsche Welle director Bettermann to commission a former television news anchor, Ulrich Wickert, with authoring an opinion.
Wickert’s opinion was never officially released, and only part of it became known in the press. It comprehensively acquitted the Chinese department. But while Wickert’s findings seem to have played a role in the labor dispute and in some or all of the hearings, they remained unpublished.
According to Wang Fengbo, one of Zhu’s former DW colleagues who followed the hearing in Erfurt, chairing judge Friedrich Hauck said that Deutsche Welle had to be seen as a Tendenzbetrieb.
This term needs some explanation – Eurofound provides a definition: “tendential” establishments would be those in which, owing to the nature of its particular purpose, the provisions of the works constitution are only partly applicable. […] The category covers all establishments which serve political, religious, charitable, educational, scientific or artistic aims or engage in news reporting and the expression of opinion.
Church-run kindergartens, for example, are usually Tendenzbetriebe. While other kindergartens – commercially- or state-run – are not allowed to consider the faith of an employee a factor, church-run kindergartens, schools, etc. may do so.
Eurofound addresses the issue of journalism and Tendenzbetriebe more specifically here.
Political parties, labor unions, employer associations, and even printing plans that belong to a newspaper group would be Tendenzbetriebe – not to mention the papers themselves, privately-owned papers included. Co-determination, a German concept of co-management of a company by its employees, is also limited in Tendenzbetriebe.
There was a rather big audience – some thirty people, apparently law students with no partiulcar interest in Zhu’s case, but looking on as part of their studies.
These are some initial impressions. Wang Fengbo described his and his three former colleagues’ story in an interview early last year, and a link collection with related posts can be found here (I realize that the collection could use some updates).
More details may follow.