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Chinese Airline Captain Defects to Avoid Torture

At the Shanghai airport on August 8, 2006, Yuan Sheng, the co-captain of flight MU583/586, was about to take off for Los Angeles. What he did not know was that his life would change in the next 24 hours and that he might never see his wife and daughter again.

Yuang Sheng, 39, had been a pilot with the Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines for 18 years. He had an impressive record of 12,400 hours of safe flying. Since 1995, he regularly flew the Shanghai-Los Angeles route. This time he was the co-captain responsible for the return flight.

The 300-plus passengers began boarding at around 2 p.m. As the return route co-captain, Yuan did not have much to do. He saw a young man in charge of ground safety and noticed he had the accent of someone from his hometown—Shandong Province—so he began chatting with him. He talked to him about the book the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, the withdrawals of the Chinese people from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Yuan also suggested to him that he quit the CCP. They chatted for over half an hour before the young man left.

A moment later, the young man returned with four uniformed airport policemen. They then called two more local policemen to the site. First, they confiscated Yuan’s work ID and told him loudly, "You definitely can’t leave today! This issue concerns state security. It’s very serious!" They asked the crew to close the airplane door and leave without Yuan.

The passengers had already boarded and the airplane was ready to take off. The crew argued with the police and explained that it was too late to find someone to replace their co-captain.

The local police called in their supervisor, who took Yuan’s information and then said, "You will have to tell us all the details of this matter when you return from the United States." He returned the ID to Yuan and allowed him to board his airplane, as keeping an international flight from taking off was no small responsibility.

On the flight to Los Angeles, Yuan Sheng felt upset and dazed. Based on his knowledge of the CCP, he knew that real trouble awaited him when he returned to Shanghai. He thought a lot about what was happening in China.

He remembered how, at the end of 1997, he started practicing Falun Gong after a friend told him about the practice. He found his health improved, and he had more confidence. He remembered how, after the persecution started on July 20, 1999, when he flew back to Shanghai from the United States, Eastern Airlines made him go through forced brainwashing sessions because he practiced Falun Gong. His supervisors demanded that he write a guarantee letter to give up Falun Gong. If he refused, they would not have allowed him to continue being a pilot. He wrote the letter in order to keep his job, but he cried afterward. It was the only time in his adult life that he ever cried.{mospagebreak}

He remembered hearing of many cases of persecution of Falun Gong practitioners right in his own neighborhood. At the time of the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC), the police secretly arrested many practitioners, including several living on Wuzhong Street near his home.

He also remembered how, in the building next to the Airline Office Building, the police arrested a Falun Dafa practitioner after a housekeeper found a copy of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party in an office. They didn’t have a warrant or follow any due process of law.

He knew from these experiences that the police took any incident related to the Nine Commentaries very seriously. The spread of the book and the withdrawals from the Communist Party scared Party leaders. He knew of people who had been sentenced to four-year prison terms just for possessing one copy of the Nine Commentaries.

After landing in Los Angeles, Yuan Sheng called his home. His 12-year-old daughter sounded happy on the phone. Yuan figured that the police had not yet gone there. They would wait for him at the Shanghai airport and arrest him once he passed through customs. Only then would they ransack his home. He was sure that he would not see his family again, even if he flew back to Shanghai.

He spoke to his wife, told her what happened, and explained to her why he could not come back. He asked her opinion. She said to him, crying, "Don’t speak any more! It’s not safe to talk on the phone; please make your own decision."

Flight MU586 was scheduled to arrive in Shanghai at around 6:30 p.m. on August 11, 2006, but its co-captain, Yuan Sheng, was not on board—he decided to apply for political asylum in the United States.

The defection of a Chinese airline captain has drawn attention to the Chinese people’s withdrawals from the CCP and the Chinese regime’s heavy-handed suppression, but not in China. For more than 20 months after the publication of the Nine Commentaries and the subsequent mass renunciations of the CCP, the Chinese regime has kept the facts hidden from the public. On August 11, a reporter from The Epoch Times called the Department of Propaganda and the Department of Security of China Eastern Airlines in Pudong to inquire about the incident. All responded, "We don’t know [anything about the situation]."

As The Epoch Times Commentator Zhang Tianliang points out, the Nine Commentaries has never been openly banned in China, but the Chinese police consider possessing or talking about this book to be an "issue concerning state security. It’s very serious!" After Yuan Sheng’s defection, China Eastern Airlines made a statement that carefully avoided any mention of the Nine Commentaries or the withdrawals from the CCP.

In the safety of the United States, however, Yuan Sheng is now free to talk openly and without fear about the Nine Commentaries and about the persecution. This couldn’t happen in China.

From the Editor

New Tang Dynasty, a Chinese-language TV station based in New York, recently hosted a one-hour live call-in program. Callers from both inside and outside of mainland China congratulated Mr. Yuan Sheng, a flight captain of China Eastern Airlines based in Shanghai, on his successful defection on August 9, 2006. Mr. Yuan is now applying for asylum in the United States.

Mr. Yuan’s story, appearing in this issue’s "In the News" section on page 6, is a modern version of escaping from one’s homeland to avoid religious persecution. Mr. Yuan is no criminal. The only offense he committed was that, while chatting casually with somebody who spoke his hometown dialect before the flight took off, he recommended a book called Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, and advised that person to quit the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The conversation also exposed Mr. Yuan’s identity as a member of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that embodies traditional Buddhist and Daoist principles but has been banned by the CCP since July 1999. Unfortunately, that person reported Mr. Yuan to the police and turned his world upside down.

In China, the CCP regards Falun Gong as a most fearful enemy after its seven-year, ongoing persecution has failed to put the Falun Gong issue to rest. The CCP is even more nervous about the ongoing campaign of quitting the CCP. Those who get caught promoting the book and related information are given harsh sentences. One internal document revealed that simply owning a copy of the Nine Commentaries can spell a four-year jail term for a Falun Gong adherent. Fortunately, the airline and passengers raised an uproar and refused to let the police detain Mr. Yuan at the last minute on the basis of a conversation. The police let him get on the flight, but told him ominously, "We will handle you when you come back."

For Mr. Yuan, the callers’ congratulations could offer him scant comfort. In a matter of hours, he was cut off indefinitely from his job, home, wife, and daughter. Of course, the callers pointed out that if he were in China right now, he would still have none of those things and face jail and likely torture, to boot.

In the United States, Mr. Yuan can now say and practice whatever he believes—privately or in public. For millions of his fellow citizens, however, such freedom is still a pipe dream. Opportunities to escape China are few and far in between. For now, Mr. Yuan has a sense of purpose: take advantage of his newfound freedom to urge others to quit the CCP and call on all democratic governments to take action. To Mr. Yuan, that’s the only way he can help his fellow Chinese and have any chance of reuniting with his family one day.

Mainland Taiwan Affairs Office Has a Mission for Taiwan Media

In March and April this year, I wrote three essays for Taiwan’s New News Weekly at its invitation. When I was visiting Taiwan in July, a journalist friend from the Central News Agency told me that, because of my essays, the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, a department under the State Council (of communist China), had harshly criticized the New News Weekly.

"Why do you handpick Jiao Guobiao when there are so many other writers in the mainland?" the Office demanded.

After I returned to Beijing, I asked the friend working for New News Weekly what had happened. He confirmed that what I had heard in Taiwan was true. "The Taiwan Affairs Office was even investigating who actually invited you to write the essays. So I was scared of asking you [to write for us] again," he said.

I used to have a good impression of the Taiwan Affairs Office, partially because a good friend of mine got a job at the Office after he received his Ph.D. degree. In my impression, it was an elite organization with no interest in mundane matters. I was surprised at how vulgar it had become. A simple matter as trivial as who wrote what article in a Taiwan magazine caused a stir.

The Degeneration of Taiwan’s Media

I still cannot figure out why the Taiwan Affairs Office dislikes me so much. I’m simply making a living writing these days. It looks as if the Central Propaganda Department has assumed the authority to disallow anyone in China from publishing anything I write, and the Taiwan Affairs Office has assumed the mission of preventing anyone from inviting me to write for any Taiwanese media. Under this bilateral attack across the Taiwan Strait, I could be starved to death.

This is hard to comprehend. Even if I die, the Taiwan Affairs Office would not make it to the list of beneficiaries, let alone inherit any penny from me. So why are they so anxious to see me bite the dust? Furthermore, I don’t have any enmity against the Taiwan Affairs Office.

Can it be that any given communist organization, wherever it is, no matter who’s running it, regards freedom of speech as its enemy?

During my visit in Taiwan, I attended a seminar titled "Why Taiwan’s Media Have Become so Degenerate," conducted by some Taiwanese journalism scholars. I had known little about Taiwan’s media, but I learned from the seminar that the degeneration has manifested in two aspects—smearing Taiwan’s democracy and embellishing the mainland’s autocracy.{mospagebreak}

One speaker pointed out that, according to Taiwan intelligence, at least 17 media have secretively received ill-gotten money from the Chinese authorities, who regard democracy and freedom as enemies.

Bowing to the Chinese Authorities

On the day I visited Mr. Wu Zhaoxie, key member of the Mainland Affairs Council (of Taiwan) and, in front of many Taiwanese media, I accused the Taiwanese journalists stationed in Beijing of being indifferent to the lives of the ordinary Chinese people as well as to democracy, freedom, and basic human rights there.

Since I denounced China’s Central Propaganda Department in 2004, journalists stationed in Beijing from the European nations, the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and other democratic countries have all interviewed me to show their interest in and concerns about freedom of the press in China. However, I have yet to be interviewed by any journalists from Taiwan.

Later my friend in Taiwan told me that the real situation of Taiwan’s media is far more complicated. For example, China Times and United Daily News, two major newspapers in Taiwan, are both obedient and submissive to mainland China, although they do not necessarily agree with the mainland’s suppression of its press. The journalists at these two media have protested many times but ended up in trouble every time.

The Taiwan Affairs Office plays hardball with Taiwanese media. Unlike Western media, which are backed by their embassies in Beijing, Taiwanese media have to behave carefully. Otherwise their journalists could face deportation, and their stations could be forced to close.

Taiwan journalists are orphans in Beijing. They have no one to rely on but plenty to make them suffer.

I told my friend, "If they want to close my station and deport me, so be it. Take Apple Daily (of Hong Kong) for instance. Although they are still not allowed to set up a journalists’ station in Beijing, it does not prevent them from being in high demand. As long as you are determined, you can do well, sometime even better, in reporting mainland news without being stationed there."

My friend could only shake his head in helplessness.{mospagebreak}

Forsaking Work Ethics

During my 10 days’ visit in Taiwan, I sensed deeply that many people resent most of the media’s mainland news reporting. In order to establish journalists’ stations in Beijing, they have forsaken the ethics of journalism. The manipulator behind the scene is the Taiwan Affairs Office, whose initial responsibility was reunification across the Taiwan Strait.

In my opinion, the Taiwan Affairs Office should be held accountable for the current bilateral status because day in and day out, they’ve been doing nothing but driving friends over to the enemy’s side. They have polluted the entire media industry in Taiwan and disgusted 20 million people in Taiwan.

Jiao Guobiao was an associate professor of journalism at Beijing University. His article "Declaration of the Campaign against the Propaganda Department of Central Committee of the Communist Party" criticizes that the Propaganda Department is the largest and most powerful protective umbrella for corruptions in China. The article was popular among Chinese people but angered the authorities. He was later dismissed from his post by the university.

Translated by CHINASCOPE from Apply Daily

Observations on China’s Health Care System

The issue of reforming the health care system has always been a sensitive topic in China. On September 16, 2006, the Second Summit Forum for China’s Health Care Industry was held in China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. The government officials who spoke at the forum remained cautious when dealing with the media.

They repeatedly stressed that reporters must not disclose their names or identities. As one of the officials explained, “I’m concerned about the possible problems it may cause.” Of even more interest, a few officials requested that their host delete their speeches from the forum’s stenographic records.

Contrary to his peers, Yin Dakui was the only speaker who dared to make his name public. The former deputy minister of the Ministry of Health is now the president of the Chinese Medical Association. His speech was titled” Develop a Fair and Highly Efficient Health and Medical Services System.”

Continue reading

Making It the Real People’s Magazine

While Common People magazine has long won the hearts of countless citizens in mainland China for its bold stand against social injustice and the Chinese communist government’s persecution of its own people, this same daring publication has offended the authorities. Not long after the November 2006 edition of Common People was published, the Chinese Internet police once again blocked its website.

One reporter from Common People revealed that this is the fourth time the website has been blocked. Speaking of the magazine and its chief editor, the reporter said, "As a reporter, I just have to do my job well—to write a good story. The fate and future of the magazine falls on the shoulders of Chief Editor Huang. In order to speak for justice and righteousness on behalf of the common people, he has been working under enormous pressure. He has so many troubles that he keeps to himself. He tells us very often that, as individuals, we each have to have morals, and as a media we have to have integrity. We have to produce news that is true, to report on the news behind the news, to put aside propaganda to do real news. Were we to be dismissed tomorrow, with such a leader, we would still have a sense of pride."

Following is the transcript of an interview with the chief editor of Common People magazine, Huang Liangtian, on November 4, 2006.

Q: I heard that the Common People website has once again been blocked?
A: Yes, we are already used to it. This is the fourth or fifth time.

Q: What do you think is the reason behind it?
A: I’m not sure of the exact reason this time. The Public Security Bureau told our Web server company that our magazine is too liberal.

Q: So has the magazine stopped publishing?
A: Not yet. They have not told us clearly to stop, because this magazine is still a government publication. In mainland China, all the publication numbers belong to the government. It’s the government who administers them all. We just want to make our government magazine more like a true magazine.

Q: What do you think makes it a true magazine?
A: Well, to speak the truth and not garbage or lies. This is the basic requirement of a magazine. A lot of the media in China are just propaganda tools. After I became the chief editor of Common People, I constantly tried to report the truth to our readers.{mospagebreak}

Q: When did you become involved with Common People? Were there any changes in the style and content of the magazine after you took over?
A: Common People used to be called The Chinese Countryside. It is a government publication by the Chinese Agricultural Bureau. It used to be for the purpose of cultivating the so-called "socialist new people," as the Party calls them [Note: This is a term of Chinese communist propaganda, which means making the people armed with the "socialist ideology" of communism.]. A few years ago, for some reason, it was renamed Common People for the purpose of promoting a socialist ideology among the people and propagandizing things such as socialism around the country.

Two years ago, the government arranged for me to become the chief editor of this publication. However, I am a scholar, so I decided to make this magazine a true news magazine. I want to report on things that people do not know about and to inform them of things they haven’t heard.

However, I never thought, even so, that there would be so many difficulties.

News should be open, and so should our publications. We should report on whatever our readers and the common people need. We should give them the information that they want to know.

As a media, we should not be political puppets. However, in mainland China, all the media are simply political toys. And this is determined by the party nature of Chinese Communist Party news.

Many of us cultured people or media workers have been fooled by the propaganda into thinking that we are also politicians. In fact, we are simply people with culture, and each cultured person should have his or her own independent character.

Q: In the atmosphere of political pressure in mainland China, how do you think you can be an independent person of culture?
A: One needs enormous courage to speak the truth.

Many media divide their readers into two categories: bad guys and idiots. The media seem only to attack the bad guys and educate the idiots. There is no true education or culture involved. There is only propagandizing and struggle.

In fact, these media are very ludicrous. The people are all in the know and the truth is already in their hearts. Every reader has a yardstick in his or her own heart. They each have a right to choose what they want.{mospagebreak}

Our goal is to try our best to create the things that readers need, to allow their agreement with us to come from inside their hearts. This is my guiding principle as the chief editor.

In reality, it is very simple and easy to say, but hard to do. Simply because all the other media are like that, we have thus become the odd one out.

Q: What kind of pressure does the regime put on you?
A: Well, they have all sorts of unwritten "commands" passed down through informal methods. Sometimes they’ll ask me to have a chat with them, sometimes they’ll ask a friend to pass the message, or sometimes they will have a meeting with me so I can listen to their instructions.

These are some of the things they might say, for example, "As a governmental publication, you should do this and that, and you’ll be fine. Otherwise, if you persistently decide to do this or that, things will ‘get messy.’ Why do you have to treat your readers as if they are smart people? Can’t you just treat them as if they are idiots? They are the masses, the common people. The goal of Common People is to educate the public. The purpose of educating them is so that they will become the next class of socialists, support the Communist Party, support socialism, and praise the Party and socialism."

This is what they say. However, I think that this is too easy and too hypocritical. I believe that it is not up to us, as a magazine, to say whether the Communist Party or socialism is good or not. Their actions decide this.

We don’t want to be brainwashing our readers. We hope to bring uncensored news to them, to offer a platform for common people to say what they want to say, and to express their hearts in accordance with the Chinese Constitution. Common People should tell what common people tell each other and spread such information among common people.

Although this is my guiding principle for the paper, it is not in conformance with the typical way that the Communist Party runs other publications.

Q: What is something that you have felt strongly over these two years?
A: My deepest feeling is that it is not easy to tell the truth, but that it is extremely interesting to do so.

We’ve never stopped the magazine—not once. Some issues were delayed; some officials requested that certain articles be removed. This is also the hardest part of my job and my greatest tribulation.{mospagebreak}

Some time in the future, I may be removed from my job, but when I look back, I can say without guilt that during my term as the chief editor, my fellow colleagues and I have never written a single lie or made an unfounded comment in this paper. I have not sold anything spurious to my readers. I have faced up to my own moral integrity, as well as the integrity that should belong to the profession. That is enough.

Q: I heard that many readers called to express their concern after the website was closed?
A: Yes, we received a lot of calls today. Most of our readers are cultured people with a sense of responsibility toward the nation, toward history, and toward the Chinese people; they are concerned with the current state and with the future of our nation.

Since I took over, I have never been concerned over the volume of our distribution. I focus mainly on the quality, so that readers have a sense that we have expressed what is in their hearts and used words that are meant to be said.

Moreover, we also report the truth of historical events uninfluenced by any political or party factors.

Q: Was there any restructuring of the workers when you took over?
A: Not at all. I did not bring a single person with me when I took over. These workers are all the original workers. However, the environment changes people. As long as we cultivate an environment where we dare to speak the truth, all of us will work according to this principle. United, we become a strong force, so we are able to do what we’re supposed to do.

The greatest problem with mainland media is that many media workers have desires to promote themselves— desire for money, power, position, fame, etc., or other fantasies beyond what is appropriate for our profession and for one’s conscience. Things are much easier once one is clear about all of these.

In fact, if everyone is given a more lax environment, we’re all the same. Every Chinese person who goes overseas is so energetic.

Everyone is talking about the ugly Chinese person nowadays. In our current issue, we have an article that specifically discusses this issue. What is the reason behind such ugliness? It is because our system is ugly.

From a certain perspective, we see that the Chinese people become very civilized once they go overseas. Japanese people are normally very polite. However, once they come to China, some of them become very rude; it is the same with Americans. Therefore, we cannot simply point our fingers at the Chinese people. We cannot say that there is something wrong with our race. It is a problem with the system. The Chinese people in Taiwan, Singapore, and elsewhere, are all very polite. They share the same heritage as us, so why are they different?{mospagebreak}

Perhaps it is because of our discussion on this issue that the website has been blocked.

Q: How did you manage to persevere for the last two years under such pressure?
A: A person becomes strong when he lets go of attachments and desires. Once a person is righteous within, the pressure is also reduced. If you stand straight, you’ll be able to bear the pressure. If a person is crooked within, only a small push will make him fall.

I feel very proud of my fellow colleagues. They have done a lot of things that I would never have thought of. We all have the courage to speak up for the truth.

Q: Will the new Xinhua News Agency’s regulations or the government’s regulations on sudden events have any effect on the magazine?[1] A: I don’t think so. The government has its own regulations and the news department has its own regulations. Nowadays, the media has become very advanced. Not everyone is blind. It is not a wise move to blindly regulate the news.

Q: Will you suffer additional pressure for accepting our interview?
A: I guess so, but it’s all right. I am responsible for every single sentence I say. I will still continue to do what I deem necessary. The Common People magazine will still serve its readers as usual.

As long as I am still the chief editor, I will do all that I can. I will try my best to see that the website is soon up and running. I have the confidence and the capability.

Q: Thank you very much for accepting our interview. We hope that Common People will be able to overcome this difficulty and to flourish.
A: Thank you very much for your interview. Please pass my message to all friends outside mainland China: I will not let them down!

Translated by CHINASCOPE from The Epoch Times.

Footnotes:
[1] On September 10, 2006, Xinhua, the Chinese Communist Party news agency, published a new set of government media restrictions, entitled "Measures on Administration of Release of Press Information in China by Foreign News Agencies." The new regulations require foreign news agencies to be examined and approved by Xinhua News Agency, and go through agencies authorized by Xinhua News Agency before publishing any news in China.

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