Zhang Hong: I Am a Moderate Adviser
Zhang Hong, one of the drafters of the unprecedented joint newspaper editorial calling for an abolition of the household registration system, was dismissed from his position as deputy editor at the Economic Observer Online. He writes the back story of how the editorial came to be, which the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog translates:
The original plan for the joint editorial was hatched last year when the Economic Observer joined the Guardian newspaper in a joint editorial on climate change that was published by 56 media outlets. At the time I was responsible for communicating with the Guardian, discussing and translating the joint editorial, and developed a fairly deep understanding of the entire process. Afterward the idea sprung up of whether we could publish a similar type of editorial domestically.
The suggestion to use the household registration issue as a focal point came from another colleague. In choosing this as the topic, it’s important to understand that hukou reform has already seen breakthroughs on many fronts, many cities are speeding it up, and Premier Wen Jiabao and high level central government officials have stated their position on this item of reform on many public occasions. We believed that publishing an editorial on this topic would be in line with the direction of Chinese government reforms and with the broad public interest, and that the risks were not too great. Some foreign news agencies have said that the order for this may have come down from high levels of government, but in fact it was not at all like that. This was the product of a few editors working behind closed doors, but the stir it created went beyond our initial expectations.
Moreover, we decided to use the two meetings [of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference currently taking place in Beijing] as the timeframe for publication in order to express the media’s wish to participate in China’s overall reform. To put it bluntly, I’ve lived for 36 years, but never known which representatives were chosen by me, who are able to seek justice on my behalf. I think many people might also have similar views. As part of the media, we hope that the voices of the masses can make themselves heard among the representatives who “represent public opinion.” This is a moderate stance, but it is the type of thing that before was rarely expressed directly in the media.
Read about Zhang’s dismissal from the New York Times.