By David Bandurski — The Associated Press reported this weekend that China’s economy was the focus as this year’s session of the National People’s Congress wrapped up in Beijing. But it is the controversy over the heavy-handed tactics of Hubei governor and NPC delegate Li Hongzhong (李鸿忠), who upbraided a reporter and seized her digital recorder last week, that has arguably come to define the political meetings.
The Li Hongzhong controversy took another important turn over the past two days, as hundreds of journalists, scholars and activists signed an open letter to the NPC protesting Li’s actions and calling for a public apology and an official inquiry.
The list included several well-known journalists, including columnist Chang Ping (长平) and Hong Kong writer and television commentator Leung Man-tao (梁文道).
CMP director Qian Gang wrote last week about the Li Hongzhong outburst and the phrase “right to criticize,” which received much attention in the media last week after appearing in Premier Wen Jiabao’s report. We also point readers to CDT’s round up of Chinese media criticisms of Li Hongzhong.
Our translation of the open letter follows:

Letter to the NPC on the Li Hongzhong Affair
Creating the conditions under which the people can criticize and monitor the government was an idea written into the government work report at this year’s National People’s Congress. Wen Jiabao’s words were still ringing in our ears when Hubei Governor Li Hongzhong (李鸿忠) robbed a reporter of her recording device. A public outcry followed, and after the initial shock of the act itself, we had [Li Hongzhong’s] chillingly sophistic [explanation to reporters] that, “We were concerned that she might not be a [real] reporter, and so we took her digital recorder to look into the matter.” How could anyone with a conscience not be angered at this blatant repudiation of a government commitment by a high official on the hallowed grounds of the national meetings?
A string of sensational events concerning the people’s livelihood have occurred in Hubei under Li Hongzhong’s leadership. In the Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇) case, awful crimes were perpetrated by township officials. Local leaders turned their special privileges to deception, leveling charges of murder against the victim in the case. They drove reporters away, beat them, put them under surveillance, trampling on rule of law to cover up their own official misdeeds. The Shishou Incident (石首事件) erupted into street riots. Li Hongzhong shirked responsibility in the early stages, and afterwards strove to clear away the damage, but bitterness still has yet to subside . . .
The “two meetings” are a time when the public inquires into affairs of the nation. As a delegate to the National People’s Congress, Li Hongzhong should attend to the strengths and shortcomings of the ruling party and have regard for the public good. Li Hongzhong’s words depart from civilized political conduct and flirt with personal arrogance. The robbing [of the reporter’s recording device] victimized not only the reporter herself. The incident was a setback for the rights of the media, for the public’s right to know, for China’s national image, and it brought shame to the hall [where delegates were assembled]. Li’s actions undermined the faith of the public, damaged the dignity of the NPC, and abused the image of the nation, the party and the people.
China’s constitution extends to the media and to the people the right to inquire into political affairs, and protest is justified when power flagrantly tramples on those rights. Action is far better than sitting back and posturing. Elder journalists such as Zhou Ruijin (周瑞金) have spoken out, and Zhong Peizhang (钟沛璋), former director of the News Bureau of the Central Propaganda Department, has shouted out [in protest] from his sick bed.
We intellectuals and members of the media hereby issue this solemn appeal and stand against this outrage, denouncing together the disgusting influence of the Li Hongzhong affair. Journalists of all description, from newspapers, magazines, television and radio, the Internet and social media, north and south united, we call on you to staunchly report the events that follow up this [affair], engaging this battle for our rights and interests. We hope to make a rallying cry of solidarity among journalists, and we welcome citizens to add their support. These actions are intolerable, and they must not be tolerated (忍无可忍,无须再忍). Let the whole world know that there are journalists here. Let the whole world know that there are journalists of character. And let the world understand even more that there is such a thing as civil rights. Li has made his anger heard, and now we must let him hear and see the outrage of the news media, and the anger of the public . . .
Therefore, we earnestly entreat the Bureau and Secretariat of the National People’s Congress to give special attention to further developments in the Li Hongzhong affair, to review Li Hongzhong statements, and to launch a special investigation into the full facts in the case of Li Hongzhong’s seizure of the reporter’s digital recorder. Li Hongzhong should be obligated to issue a public apology, and relevant procedures should be seriously studied for [Li’s] removal from his positions as governor and delegate.
Colleagues in the media, our protest must not be made in light of the prospects of victory, but must call on our consciences. This act of protest concerns the dignity of our industry, and it is a test of our conscience . . . Social justice and moral conscience must not be trampled again and again. Let us lift the banner of justice together, and care for our fellows. The battle for the dignity of the press is also a fight for the dignity of the people.

The following is the list of signatures on the open letter as of 9:30am on March 13, 2010:

阿 丁 北京 (媒体人)
蔡淑芳 香港 (自由撰稿人)
蔡 战  广州 (公民)
长平  广州 (媒体人)
陈鸣   北京 (媒体人)
陈宇  广州 (媒体人)
谌彦辉   (媒体人)
陈云飞 成都 (维权人士)
邓飞  北京 (媒体人)
邓璟  杭州 (媒体人)
邓丽  上海 (媒体人)
邓潇翔 湖南 (媒体人)
邓志新 广州 (媒体人)
杜冬劲 上海 (资讯业)
杜婷  香港 (媒体人)
杜宇飞 成都 (媒体人)
丰鸿平 北京 (媒体人)
冯翔  北京 (媒体人)
高明 上海 (公关人)
高岩     (媒体人)
顾艳玲 湖南 (公民)
郭敏 云南 (媒体人)
郭庆海(柏墉) 曼谷 (新闻评论人)
郭涛涛 北京 (媒体人)
郭宇宽 北京 (媒体人)
韩浩月 北京 (文化评论人)
韓洪剛 广州 (媒体人)
华 泽 北京 (媒体人)
何中州 北京 (媒体人)
胡泳  北京 (新媒体研究者)
黄瀚  上海 (媒体人)
贾葭  北京 (媒体人)
江南藜果 广州 (前报人)
蒋兆勇 香港 (媒体人)
酱离个紫 广州 (网络媒体人)
吉四六 北京 (媒体人)
康不德 广州 (媒体人)
李军  广州 (媒体人)
李霞  广州 (媒体人)
李 维 安徽 (媒体人)
李治权 杭州 (互联网)
厉志刚 北京 (媒体人)
梁文道 香港 (媒体人)
廖世杰    (媒体人)
令狐补充 广州(媒体人)
刘芳 北京 (媒体人)
刘莉 北京 (媒体人)
刘明鑫 山东 (新闻系学生)
刘柠 北京 (专栏作家)
刘 洋 辽宁 (公民)
吕宗恕 北京 (媒体人)
马俊河    (媒体人)
麦嘈 广州 (文化批评学者)
孟浩 广州 (政协常委)
倪方六 香港 (媒体人)
潘葱霞 广州 (媒体人)
潘国瑛 济南 (媒体人)
彭美 北京 (媒体人)
彭伟步 广州 (学者)
彭晓芸 广州 (媒体人)
钱仲青 北京 (媒体人)
邱 锐 北京 (公民)
冉云飞 成都 (维权人士)
沙叶新 (作家)
上官本寂 广州 (媒体人)
沈峥 北京 (媒体人)
石扉客 上海 (媒体人)
十年砍柴 北京 (时评人)
苏小和 北京 (财经作家)
谭 飞 北京 (媒体人)
谭人玮 广州 (媒体人)
唐骏 北京 (媒体人)
唐小唐 广州 (媒体人)
田 路 北京 (媒体人)
铁 流 北京 (老报人)
王 刚 北京 (NGO志愿者)
王吉陆 上海 (媒体人)
王晶  广州 (媒体人)
王楠杰 广州 (媒体人)
王鹏  兰州 (媒体人)
王琪  北京 (媒体人)
王垚懿 北京 (媒体人)
王寅 北京 (媒体人)
王则楚 广州 (前政协常委、政府参事)
王天定 西安 (新闻学院教授)
汪 洋 上海 (游戏行业)
文涛 北京 (媒体人)
夏心蕾 北京 (媒体人)
夏业良 北京 (经济学家)
笑蜀  广州 (媒体人)
谢良兵    (媒体人)
徐 震 上海 (互联网)
阎克文 北京 (学者)
严晓霖    (媒体人)
杨立才 北京 (艺术家)
阳 淼 北京 (媒体人)
杨侗     (媒体人)
杨海鹏 上海 (媒体人)
杨锦麟 香港 (媒体人)
杨潇 北京 (媒体人)
杨伟焘 北京 (审计师)
杨 政 深圳 (媒体人)
杨子云 北京 (媒体人)
余以为 广州 (媒体人)
喻向阳    (网络媒体人)
袁新亭 广州 (媒体人)
张大军 北京 (学者)

[Posted by David Bandurski, March 14, 2010, 2:37pm HK]

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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