Chinas leaders often denounce corruption and an on-going campaign against the widespread bribery and graft which is costing the Communist Party much public support has resulted in a number of executions of prominent officials. But journalists who go beyond the approved targets of the anti-corruption campaign risk imprisonment. Sophie Beach describes the case of one such individual, veteran reporter Jiang Weiping.
On December 4, 2000, journalist Jiang Weiping had just dropped his wife off at work in Dalian and was getting out of his car when security agents whisked him away to a local army base. He was held there for several weeks in a room with no heat, despite the frigid temperatures in Chinas northeast. Jiangs wife and young daughter went for one month with no news of his whereabouts. When he was moved to the Dalian Development District Detention Center (Dalianshi Kaifaqu Kanshousuo
), his wife was notified, but she has not been allowed to see or talk to him since his arrest. Jiang was sentenced to nine years in prison following a secret trial on September 5, 2001.
Jiang was arrested because of a series of articles he had written exposing corruption among high-level officials in northeastern China. Knowing he could face repercussions for tackling the local elite, Jiang wrote the articles under various pen names and published them in a Hong Kong magazine, Frontline (Qianshao)
Jiang Weiping is an experienced reporter and a published poet. In the 1980s, he worked as a Dalian-based reporter for Xinhua News Agency and was the northeastern China bureau chief of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong paper Wen Hui Bao
from the early 1990s until May 2000. During his career, he received several awards from local and provincial governments for his reporting.
While at Wen Hui Bao
, Jiang became aware of several corruption scandals in the region, and decided to use his skills as a journalist to expose them. In a series of articles for Frontline
, Jiang reported that Shenyang vice-mayor Ma Xiangdong had gambled away over 30 million yuan in the casinos of Macau; Daqing vice mayor Qian Dihua had used illegally obtained funds to buy cars and houses for each of his 29 mistresses; and former Dalian mayor Bo Xilai had covered up corruption among his friends and family members.
In a letter to President Jiang Zemin smuggled out of prison, Jiang Weiping said that he wrote the articles out of a journalists conscience, and as a way of showing confidence and determination in the Partys anti-corruption efforts.
After authorities traced the articles to Jiang Weiping, he was arrested and charged with revealing state secrets, inciting subversion of state power, and illegally holding confidential documents. When he was tried on September 5, his wife was not allowed into the courthouse. His sentence has not yet been publicly announced.
Jiangs case illustrates the risks faced by Chinese investigative journalists: while government officials call on the countrys reporters to join in the fight against corruption, no legal protections exist for journalists who do so. Any journalist who reports on official wrongdoing without tacit approval from the countrys higher-ups risk censorship, the loss of their job, harassment or imprisonment. China is now the worlds leading jailor of journalists, with at least 25 currently behind bars.
It is widely believed that Jiang crossed an especially dangerous line by reporting on Bo Xilai, a rising star among the princelings. As son of Party elder Bo Yibo, Bo Xilai enjoys an extra level of protection in Beijing. Furthermore, Bo Xilai is widely expected to receive a promotion at next years 16th Party Congress, and magazine reports exposing his abuse of power could only damage his chances. While Jiang is languishing in prison, Bo has been promoted to the post of Liaoning provincial governor.
Despite Dalian authorities efforts to keep this case under wraps, Jiang is finally receiving international attention, which may be his only hope for release. The Committee to Protect Journalists awarded him a 2001 International Press Freedom Award, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson brought up his case when she met with top Chinese officials in November.
Chinas leaders would do well to realize that by imprisoning journalists like Jiang, they are silencing their strongest ally in the fight against corruption. As journalist Zhang Weiguo wrote recently in an essay about Jiang Weiping, The treatment of journalists by politicians like Jiang Zemin, [Foreign Minister] Tang Jiaxuan and Bo Xilai runs counter to the transformation of Chinese society. Although they try to protect their own power, public opinion and a sense of justice will soon nail them to historys pillar of shame.
Included here are some excerpts of Jiangs offending articles in Frontline
, and a poem dedicated to his daughter, written in prison. All are translated by CPJ.
For my daughter, written from prison
During these days without your father
Keep yourself company, treasure yourself.
When youre watching television,
do not ignore your mothers joy and sorrow.
I cant help but shiver on these cold nights
but feel better knowing that your mothers love
covers you like spring rain,
Now that you admit that youve grown up,
you must be strong like your mother.
No matter how long the three of us are separated,
in our dreams we are always together,
Though the road home has many twists and turns,
your Daddy believes that we will be reunited soon,
This world contains so many things that are not eternal:
status, money, reputation, power;
only truth and justice truly rule
the drama of human life.
Your old father will not be toppled on this cold night,
the wild mountain peaks make character strong.
The sun is truly bright and red,
the giant dragon strides into a new century,
your old father stands on the giants shoulders,
he will certainly pick up his pen once again!
Sophie Beach is the Asia researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists. For more information on Jiang Weiping and other imprisoned Chinese journalists, please visit: www.cpj.org.