Journalism is a vastly different concept in a country where free speech is fiercely quashed and propaganda the primary role of domestic newspapers and broadcasters.
In China, which ranks among the top jailers of journalists in the world, the main media outlets, including Xinhua News Agency, were created to serve the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in whatever capacity possible.
Ding Ke , a former reporter for Guangming Daily, a Chinese state-owned newspaper, revealed some of those capacities to the Epoch Times in 2005 when he shared his experience as a foreign correspondent stationed in Washington, D.C. Now living in the United States, Ke said his journalist moniker was a cover for his work as a spy.
“On one hand I was engaged in news reporting, on the other hand I collected information for the Ministry of State Security,” he said.
“We were required to contact different groups of people to ferret out useful information, especially among the nearly 30 million overseas Chinese people.”
Ding said that after graduating from Beijing Language Institute in the 1980s, he was assigned to the Central Investigation Agency (later named National Security Department) for a month’s training. Then he was sent to work at the Daily and to “prepare for intelligence gathering for the future.”
“At the time, we were asked to learn how to gather useful intelligence from the variety of people we came in contact with.”
Ding said that for intelligence gathering it was important to make friends with all kinds of people and establish long-term relationships, and when the conditions were right a steady stream of intelligence information would be easy to obtain.
Other spies worked as diplomats, economic analysts, or within cultural organizations, he said.
At one time, Xinhua was almost synonymous with the CCP in some parts of the world, and top Xinhua positions were held by high-ranking Party cadres.
Xu Jiatun was the head of Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong from 1983 to 1990 and the secretary of the Hong Kong and Macao Work Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
He left China after the Tiananmen Square massacre and revealed in 2010 how Xinhua was the functioning representative of the Party in Hong Kong during the 1980s when it was still a British colony. Xu spent a third of this time in China and a third wining and dining important figures in Hong Kong, sometimes, to the tune of five to six different meals a day.
Xu’s successor, Zhou Nan, was Vice-Minister of the Foreign Affairs Department.
Xu said that in the 1980s, Xinhua reporters in Hong Kong were not allowed to wander the street alone and were isolated from the outside world to keep them from getting corrupted by the “big dye vat of capitalism.”
The Communication University of China (CUC) recently published a report on its website about how the Chinese regime prepared students for careers in overseas branches of major Chinese media agencies.
In the article, titled “To Report a Strong China to the World: On How Communication University of China Trained Reserved Talents on International Communication,” the university detailed an important ritual done just before graduates began their overseas internships.
The article described the students being taken to Yan’an, the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party, to make oaths to the Party.
“At three o’clock sharp in the afternoon of July 14, 2011, student representatives from Tsinghua University and Communication University of China stood on the peak of Qingliang of Yan’an City. Bathed in drizzling rain, they held their fists and made an oath: ‘To carry on and promote the good traditions of the Party in journalism, holding the flag and considering the whole situation … try our best to satisfy the Party and satisfy our people as a journalist.’”
The article noted the students were destined for internships at overseas bureaus of Xinhua, CCTV, China Daily, and China News Service.