On September 24, Germany’s government-funded international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) revoked Zhang Danhong’s official title as the deputy chief of its Chinese division after her public defense for Beijing’s human rights policy and Internet censorship. Four days before the Beijing Olympics, Zhang hailed the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) practice of article three of Universal Declaration of Human Rights unmatched by any other political force. She also likened Beijing’s blocking of Falun Gong and Tibetan movement websites to Germany’s restriction on child pornography or right-wing extremist sites. She has since been taken off the air by DW. On September 26, 2008, numbers of Chinese scholars cosigned the following open letter to the German Parliament. 
Authors: Ah Hai, Zhong Weiguang, et. al.
The Epoch Times, Sept. 26, 2008
This year, after the Federal Republic of Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Dalai Lama concerning the Olympic Games held in China, the issue of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) at last triggered the concern of the German community.
The editors of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany), represented by Zhang Danhong, due to their directly disseminating the social ideology of the Chinese government and reflecting the Chinese government’s requests, have caused attention and widespread criticism from German media, politicians, as well as overseas Chinese media. After the incident, the Propaganda Department of the CCP and its mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency jumped to the front from behind the scenes and attacked with typical methods of the Cold War on the German community, media, and politicians for their criticism to the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) and its vice director, Zhang Danhong, which indicated the seriousness of the issue of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle.
For this reason, as exiled Chinese intellectuals in Germany due to our thoughts, beliefs, and so on, we, with Chinese individuals and groups living in Germany, would like to take this opportunity to publicly express our views to the German Parliament, the government of Germany and the German media on the issue of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle and call for a thorough restructuring of the “Deutsche Welle” Chinese Department.
In our view, due to the special Chinese broadcasting, the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle has separated itself from mainstream society and become an isolated island in the German community. To a certain extent, 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. It is shown in the following areas:
First, the audience of mainland Chinese think that the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle has been seen as the most reliable overseas media by the mainland Chinese government. (See Annex II) We believe that this view is accurate. It manifested in the following:
1. The Chinese media are all under the control of the government. The Chinese government strictly examines and controls live broadcasting. However, in the 2007 Spring Festival, the Central People’s Broadcasting Station live broadcasted the interview with Zhang Danhong, deputy director of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle, indicating that the political ideology department of Chinese government has a high degree of confidence in her.
2 It is well known that the journalists of Western media are subject to rigorous surveillance and even being hindered when they work, travel, or visit relatives in China. However, Zhang Danhong and other Chinese editors of Deutsche Welle have received high-level receptions each time they come to China.
3. The mainland Chinese audience, either dissidents or the general public, think that Deutsche Welle is very different from other television stations such as German TV-1, German TV-2, CNN, Chinese Ministry of France Radio, and other Chinese radio stations, and it is a friendly media to the Chinese government. It is rare for Chinese people to hear from Deutsche Welle the truth that they are eager to know but is blocked by the Chinese government. (See Annex II)
4. Before the Beijing Olympic Games, the speeches of Zhang Danhong in the German media and some reports from the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle were completely opposite to the critical attitude of Germany and the European community to the human rights situation in China and the Chinese government’s press censorship. From the Chinese government’s position, they praised the Chinese government’s human rights achievements and attacked the Western media, the German government’s foreign policy, as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Annex I, II)
5. China’s human rights and the general audience at home and abroad can see that the political orientation, style, and language in some Chinese radio programs of Deutsche Welle, especially its Chinese website, are very similar to that of China’s official propaganda mouthpiece, the “People’s Daily” Overseas Edition. Some important news in its Chinese website, such as the Dalai Lama’s visit to Germany, were taken out of context to mislead the public. The reports on Lhasa, Tibet were entirely the same as the media of the Chinese government. (See Annex III)
Second, before the Beijing Olympic Games, Zhang Danhong and other Chinese editors of Deutsche Welle were so active to safeguard the Chinese government of the Communist Party, but very negative to report civic movements, sounds, and activities of the criticism in the society of the Communist Party.
1. Very different to German TV-1 and German TV-2’s rapid, sharp, and dynamic reports on the civic movements in the Chinese society of the Communist Party, there are few such reports in the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle. In Germany, the reports on China’s domestic and even overseas dissidents, the rights and the groups and individuals with different beliefs are always firstly from the German media.
2. According to the knowledge of ourselves and our friends and relatives in mainland China, the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle is very negative to reporting news that the Chinese Communist Party does not like, such as events relate to human rights, democracy, and dissidents. They do not report these as far as possible. When they have to report them, they just forward the reports from other media, with the timeliness, importance, and space greatly reduced. (See Annex II) Such characteristics are most prominent on its Chinese website. There are few words and little news on domestic and exiled Chinese human rights, civic activists, dissident intellectuals, as well as the pro-democracy movement.
3. As “Radio Free Europe” in the Cold War, the Chinese Department of “Free Asia” and “wide” etc., contact closely with domestic and overseas dissident individuals and groups, and often report their views and trends. However, in contrast to their good relations with and reports on the Chinese government, nearly all the editors of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle seldom contact with and report the dissidents, with their political point of view out of tune.
Third, the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle has not rightly spread the political image of Germany.
As to the Chinese audience, nowadays Germany, like the United States, Britain, and France, is one of the representative countries of democratic society. In particular, the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification have an extremely important historical significance. However, the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle has not rightly spread such a political image of Germany.
1. As we all know, the Dalai Lama has a good relationship with the politicians of each German party and has a wide range of influence in Germany civil society. The Chinese government has blockaded the Dalai Lama and his worldwide influence for a long time. Chinese society has a lack of information in this regard. The Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle has been very negative toward reporting such information. Moreover, we can see that the criticism on Chancellor Angela Merkel from Zhang Danhong and other Chinese editors of Deutsche Welle before the Beijing Olympic Games is not the same as the different views in Germany. They did not discuss how China should do better, but fundamentally support the Chinese government, and attacked the agreement of German government and civil on the Dalai Lama’s principles and values. The reports on their website even deviated from the facts. (Annex III)
From the hostile attitude to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Zhang Danhong and some editors of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle, we can see that on this issue, they violated the purpose of Deutsche Welle and cannot rightly spread the true political image of Germany.
2. The absence of German President Kohler and Chancellor Angela Merkel in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, and the discussion of the German society about how to look at the Olympic Games held in Beijing before the Olympic Games have shown Germany’s basic position as a democratic society. However, the radio and website of Deutsche Welle have not reflected such principled and conditional support, and is also without the discussion of how to promote and support the people in the autocratic country to strive for human rights and freedom.
3. During the 19 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 60 years after World War II, Germany has had a very valuable historical experience in cleaning up, studying on, and discussing the problems of society under the Communist Party and the problems of totalitarian dictatorship, especially for studying on the Communist Party of East Germany, many new events and files have been revealed one by one. These events have had a significant impact on the life of the international community, for example, the film “The Lives of Others,” which has won an Academy Award. However, the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle has not presented timely, accurately, or frequently to Chinese world the profound, sharp, and historic response of Germany to the society of the Communist Party.
Fourth, the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle has a serious problem in its human resources.
The political orientation and ideology of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle are closely related to its personnel issue. So we ask the German Parliament and the relevant departments to get to know and clarify the personnel issue of Deutsche Welle.
1. We heard that certain editors of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle refused to make any interview programs on dissidents and the Falun Gong issue. We request the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle to answer if it is true. It should not be tolerated if this kind of thing really took place in the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle.
2. Is the Deutsche Welle radio station aware that its editors should pay attention to avoiding political and interests? The phenomenon that the editors can come in and out of China freely and become honored guests of the official government departments of the Communist Party can affect the impartiality of Deutsche Welle at any time. In addition, this phenomenon can even affect the safety of the persons inside Deutsche Welle and their family members, who dare to contact with dissidents, and affect the safety of the dissidents both at home and abroad who have contacted Deutsche Welle.
3. Zhang Zhenhua, the father of an important editor of Deutsche Welle, worked in the Cultural Services Department of China’s consulate in Bonn. During his return to China, he reported to the resident committee of Waiwenju Street the information he collected in Germany, saying that Dr. Huang Sifan, the daughter of his neighbor Jiang Xiaochai, is a Falun Gong activist in Germany, and called for measures to keep the home of Jiang Xiaochai under close surveillance. After the resident committee received the report, someone told it to Jiang Xiaochai and asked Jiang Xiaochai and her family to be careful. Ms. Jiang Xiaochai urged again and again her daughter, Dr. Huang Sifan in Germany, to pay attention to those associated with Zhang Zhenhua.
Ms. Jiang Xiaochai is also a Falun Gong practitioner. In 2006, when she was seriously ill in the hospital, she was reported again, and was raided, arrested, and sentenced to three years in detention and probation. She died in the hospital on Dec. 6.
We have heard that the editor has been apparently negative toward reporting any Falun Gong issues and on dissidents. Now she is an important staff member of Deutsche Welle for contact with China. In our view, in terms of protecting herself from being reported secretly by her father, or the possible negative impact she might bring on the safety of people around her, Deutsche Welle has been very careless to employ and appoint such a person, and hasn’t paid attention to avoid many kinds of negative impacts.
In conclusion, in our view, for the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle to become a normal media in Western democratic society, we appeal and request the necessary structural and personnel reorganization for Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle.
1. Zhang Danhong should leave the leadership position (Fuehrungsposition); key staff must be checked on their various backgrounds; make sure of the necessity of avoiding of interests.
2. In view of its facing a society of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle should select professionals who have adequate understanding on the society and the problems of the Communist Party, and persons who have experience on the former Eastern Europe and East Germany. And there is no lack of such people in Germany.
3. Some standards should be set up for recruitment of staff for the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle. It is necessary to check on ideology and the social background. We think that the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle should avoid employing those who used to be members and cadres of the Chinese Communist Party if they cannot prove that they have severed relations with the organization of the Chinese Communist Party Organization.
4. The news work of the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle should be checked on regularly. Persons from different classes of the community, human rights groups, former East German citizen activists, and Chinese dissidents, can be invited to give comments to and identification of the programs of certain days or certain parts of the programs.
5. The news exchanges with the society of the Communist Party directly involve the fundamental issues of a democratic society such as ideology and value. It is fundamentally different from economic exchanges. So the cooperation and exchange between the Chinese Department of Deutsche Welle and Chinese officials should be carried out under strict supervision and control. Otherwise, it will damage the positive image of Germany, the policy of German government, and even the safety of Chinese dissidents!
Ah Hai (freelance writer, publisher), Fei Liangyong (chairman of the Democracy United Front), Gao Qinghong (chairman of Germany branch of all overseas Chinese democratic and peaceful Union), Huan Xuewen Huan (freelance writer), Huang Sifan (free reporter), Peng Xiaoming (chairman of the Chinese-German Student Association), Pan Yongzhong (secretary of the Global Forum on Supporting Freedom in China and Asia), Wang Rongfen (freelance writer), and Zhong Weiguang (freelance writer)