Chinese Scholars Urge German Council to Reorganize Voice of Germany’s Chinese Department

September 25, 2008 Updated: September 25, 2008

Zhang Danhong, vice director of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) recently created an uproar when she openly defended the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Since Zhang’s speech, several Chinese scholars have carefully monitored Voice of Germany (VoG), including content from its China broadcasting division and Web site. When the German Parliament recently reconvened after their summer recess, eight Chinese scholars representing various China democracy organizations wrote an open letter to the Parliament recommending complete reorganization of Voice of Germany’s Chinese Department.  

The eight scholars included freelance writers Zhong Weiguang and Huan Xuewen, Wang Rongfen, Dr. Ah Hai, Fei Liangyong, Chairman of the Democracy United Front, Pan Yongzhong, Secretary of the Global Forum on Supporting Freedom in China and Asia, Ping Xiaoming, Chairman of the Chinese-German Student Association, and Dr. Huang Sifan. 

The scholars believe that Voice of Germany’s Chinese Department has intentionally separated itself from the station’s mainstream of political thought and policies. Its reporting has turned away from the station’s primary objective—to promote human rights and democracy and spread a positive image of Germany worldwide. 

One of the scholars, Zhong, has studied totalitarianism for many years. “This open letter regarding the crisis within Voice of Germany’s Chinese Department has been sent to different parties in the German Parliament as well as members of the media oversight committee within the Parliament,” said Zhong.

The scholars pointed out that Zhang’s speech on the Voice of Germany and some reports from the Chinese Department were reported from the perspective of Communist Chinese authorities.

The letter especially criticized reports on Voice of Germany’s Chinese Web site. Voice of Germany’s Chinese Department is extremely passive in reporting news that the Chinese Communist regime does not approve; for example, events related to human rights, democracy, and political dissidents. Voice of Germany’s Chinese section avoids such stories whenever possible; if such stories are too widely reported for VoG to ignore, the VoG Chinese department only reports information available from other media outlets.

Also, the reports VoG China publishes are generally of a lower quality and of shorter length than the original media pieces. The Chinese Web site has only very limited reports and news on Chinese human rights activists, political dissidents, and pro-democracy activists. 

The Chinese scholars requested that the German Parliament question Voice of Germany regarding these issues. “Those Voice of Germany employees, who can freely enter China or even be treated as VIPs by the Chinese communist regime, can affect the credibility of Voice of Germany. This phenomenon can even affect the safety of those who work for Voice of Germany and dare to interview Chinese political dissidents. The safety of their family members can also be affected. Even the safety of those political dissidents who have contact with Voice of Germany in and out of China can become uncertain,” said Fei Liangyong.

In their letter, the scholars recommended that a reorganization be conducted at Voice of Germany’s Chinese Department. It especially suggests that Voice of Germany should avoid hiring those who were at one time CCP members and cannot prove that they have since that time quit. 

On September 19, 2008, the German newsweekly Der Spiegel published the Chinese scholars’ open letter to the German Parliament. Der Spiegel suggested that Voice of Germany needs to investigate whether its Chinese Department has provided space for the CCP’s propaganda purposes. 

Read this article in Chinese.