NEW YORK—Around late October, Professor Sheng Jianhong, the deputy director of the Shanghai Office of Local Chronicles, sought out and was interviewed by the Chinese language version of Epoch Times (Dajiyuan) in New York.
Sheng took the opportunity of an interview to discuss her recent book on the Chinese immigrants to the United States who worked on the Pacific Railroad. She said her research was inspired by Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s view that “the broad Pacific Ocean is vast enough to embrace both China and the United States.” Xi, Professor Sheng says, views this early migration to be a “token of friendship” between the U.S. and China.
She also talked about Xi Jinping’s “reverential appreciation and concentrated study” of China’s 5,000 year-old culture. Xi, she added, had stressed the importance of preserving and continuing ancient local chronicles when he was an official in the southern province of Fujian in the 1980s. Sheng remains the deputy director of the Shanghai Office of Local Chronicles.
The newspaper promotes traditional Chinese culture, but this was an unusual interview, considering that the Epoch Times has been banned in China since its beginning.
Founded in an Atlanta basement in 2000, Epoch Times is an independent newspaper that extensively covers human rights abuses in China, including the persecution of Falun Gong. It has also published a well-known editorial series criticizing the Communist Party.
The newspaper is also the most widely circulated Chinese-language newspaper in the world outside China.
Sheng appeared to be familiar with the journalistic conventions of Epoch Times. When referring to Xi Jinping during the interview, she used the salutation “Mr.” or “xiansheng” in Chinese, instead of the official title of “chairman” or “general secretary,” which mainland officials are wont to.
Epoch Times has learned through various channels that Chinese officials, especially those at the upper echelons of government, regularly bypass the Chinese internet blockade to peruse the newspaper’s Chinese-language website, reading news and analyses that Chinese state-run media could not carry.
Many people in China try to get around censorship to read Epoch Times online. All media inside China are state owned, and Epoch Times’ independent reporting plays a unique role in current affairs of China.
With reporting from Cai Rong.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that Sheng Jianhong was interviewed at Epoch Times headquarters; Sheng was interviewed at a neutral venue in New York.