Weiping, a 2001 CPJ Press Feedom Award winner, spoke on Tuesday
on a panel organized by the Ford Foundation in Washington, along with CPJ board member Clarence Page and Executive Director Joel Simon. The
panel addressed the concerning number of journalists jailed worldwide--125,
according to CPJ's 2008 census--and discussed how advocacy by CPJ and other
groups can improve that figure. Jiang's
wife, Stella Li, translated his speech and a poem that he wrote in prison for
Ladies and gentlemen,
I feel very happy to be in Washington to attend this event today,
especially during spring, a season that symbolizes rebirth and renewal.
First of all, I would like to express my sincere
thanks to the Ford Foundation for facilitating this opportunity to meet all of
you, whom I had never met before but respect deeply from my heart for your
strong support for press freedom around the world. I would also like to give
thanks to the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. In November 2001, almost one year
after I had been arrested, I was still in detention and denied family visits--even denied access to reading materials. I knew nothing of what was happening
beyond my jail cell. It was the most difficult period in my life. I suffered
greatly from stomach disease and did not have access to medical treatment. I
felt so helpless. One day, a very kind prison guard came to me and
secretly handed me a note. It was a letter from my wife. I was told that the Committee
to Protect Journalists had honoured me with a Press Freedom Award. I also learned
that many people whom I had never known before showed great interest in my case
and were petitioning for my release. This was great encouragement during those
dark days! I felt so happy and humbled for this honour, knowing that so many
other journalistic colleagues deserve the award more. I no longer felt alone. I
believed that, no matter how long and difficult the road ahead, one day I would
return home and pick up my pen again. Without your support during those days, I
would not be standing here today. Let me say: Thank you, thank you all!
Now, I cannot but help think of another media friend,
a former senior reporter for Asia Weekly
magazine in Hong Kong: Mr. Wang Jian Min. His timely
report about my case roused world-wide media attention outside of China, which resulted
in my secret arrest becoming a public case. After being released from prison in
2006, I paid a special visit to Wang Jian Min and his family in Shenzhen. I
said to him: the Press Freedom Award is your honor, too. He laughed and was so
happy to see me again. Both of us knew that the Press Freedom Award provided
great encouragement to countless journalists in China. The award is given not to
one particular person, but to all journalists who carry out their duties and
tell the truth. It supports and encourages many reporters in China who care
about press freedom in order to promote democracy and freedom in the world's
most populous country.
After I was finally reunited with my family in Canada just two
months ago, my wife and I were invited to a dinner by a Canadian poet who had
also worked as a journalist. He asked me a question that I had been asked
frequently following my release from prison: Why had I risked writing articles that
exposed high-level state corruption when I could have lived a decent, comfortable
By way of answer, let me begin by saying that I come from
a poor family. I endured hardship during my childhood and spent my youth in the
countryside amid the Cultural Revolution. My parents were like most other
people, struggling to make a living in a grass-roots society. I was brought up to
be a just man.
I graduated from university in 1982, started my work
as an editor and journalist in a local newspaper. Later, I worked for Xinhua news
agency and, following that, as the senior reporter and the chief of the northern
bureau of the Hong Kong-based newspaper, Wen
In my 18-year career as a journalist, I met and
interviewed many people from the lower levels of society. Because of China's inadequate
legal system and rampant corruption, the voices of these people have not been heard,
their needs neglected and their suffering ignored. I believe the journalist has
a duty to report the truth.
I remember one day in 1998 when two unexpected
visitors showed up at my office in Dalian.
The young ladies came from Ha Er Bin in Heilong Jiang
province. It took them over 10 hours by train to get to Dalian. After stepping into my office, one of
the ladies, Zhang Jian Hua, knelt down and began to cry very hard. I let her
calm down and listened to her story. Her father was a famous layer who had been
persecuted by a local official and died in detention. She wanted me to report
her father's case in Wen Hui Po in Hong Kong, because none of the local media would touch it
because of possible reprisals from influential local officials. She wanted
justice for her father's death. Her story shocked me, and I felt sorry that I
could not really help, because I was quite sure that such an exposé would not get
published in Wen Hui Po, since it was
under the control of Chinese Communist Party.
As it happened, on my desk was the recent issue of the
Hong Kong-based magazine Asia Weekly.
I was very impressed by the articles written by Wang Jian Min for the magazine.
I had never met him in person before, but knew him by name. I immediately got in
touch with him to discuss the case. He agreed to come and meet with Ms. Zhang.
Wang Jian Min went to Dalian and Ha Er Bin to conduct interviews.
During that time, I stayed in touch and followed developments. Soon after, Asia Weekly published the full story of
Zhang's father. She was very happy. She wanted to come to Dalian to give me some money as a gesture of thanks.
I refused, telling her that I was just doing what I, as a journalist, should be
Two years later, in 2000, I was arrested for an
investigative piece published in Qian
Shao magazine, which is based in Hong Kong.
They exposed high-level state corruption. I was charged with having revealed
state secrets overseas and subverting state power, and authorities had included
my help to Ms. Zhang as evidence of that.
"We have been watching you for long time," they warned
me when I was interrogated. "Nothing you did escaped our eyes."
Following a closed trial in Dalian intermediate court, I was sentenced to
eight years' imprisonment, later reduced to six years on appeal.
Being a journalist is a high-risk job in China; the
government strictly controls the media. Reporters overseas come under special
Ladies and gentleman, more then 30 years ago, in 1972,
two young reporters from The Washington
Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, brought down a U.S. president
with their investigative report on the Watergate scandal. They received
international recognition for their work. Almost 30 years later in another
part of the world, a Chinese journalist was put into prison for six years
because of reports exposing the corruption by local officials. One of the officials
involved remains in a position of high authority in the government. What a
difference in the fate of journalists under two different political systems!
The year 1905 saw a well-known case of press freedom in
Rong and Zhang Tai Yan were sentenced to death by the Qing dynasty because
of an article that had criticized the emperor. The case was publicly reported
and it became well-known at the time. When Zhang was released from prison, he
was allowed to go to Japan
for exile. Zou, on the other hand, died in prison. One hundred years later, like
Zou and Zhang, I was put in prison also because of words. The difference
is that, when I was arrested, no domestic media outlet reported on my
case. When I finally got my release from prison in 2006, I was still under
surveillance and not allowed a passport to travel to Canada to be reunited with my
family. One hundred years, and the situation for press freedom has not progressed
As you can see, the road to press freedom in China
will be long and difficult. It will demand commitment from all journalists.
In spite of five years and one month of imprisonment,
followed by three years under security surveillance after my release, my vision
of a free press in China has not been shaken, and neither has my commitment to
prevent corruption as well as promote democracy and the rule of law.
Today, I am free, but there are many journalists in
the world working under dangerous situations. We should all continue to show
our concern and work for their release. The work is hard, but it has to be done.
I Hear You Sing
I hear you sing
the gorgeous curtain of night descends
fireworks explode in the seaside city.
song is as freighted and lonely as mine.
thank our messenger--the wind of early spring.
know that we could only speak with eyes,
the same tears, the same choking sobs.
feel no hatred, nor has it made me mute,
the impact of our hearts and what we know.
noise of night is what we share.
I hear you sing
the local accent with public feeling.
during days of freedom
steps broke through thick ice.
know there's no bullet in your barrel.
will not escape. I love this wall.
walk with regular strides,
your notes with your own steps.
punishes all those who think.
of the monitor above your head
has been painted blank, a color heavy
helpless love and helpless hate.
repeat the same dull story within your bounds.
many kindly Chinese it lulls to sleep
you help, you should know.
wander within my ten-square-meter cell
the truth within me has passed beyond these bars.
I cherish what you sing
the sadness and pain inside me.
tell me that though you walk free within your bounds
words silenced by storm are my own.
spring wind blows sand into your eyes.
cannot your mood have the weight of mine?
New Year's Eve 2004