More translation of Lu Yuegang’s open letter

Thanks to David Cowhig for his excellent translation of some parts of the Lu Yuegang’s open letter. David follows the Internet in China and here is his translation of the beginning part of the Lu’s letter:

Your Excellency Zhao Yong:
We need to have a straightforward discussion. The talk you gave on the afternoon of May 24 at the meeting of the mid level cadres of the China Youth Daily left many of my colleagues and myself very digusted and discouraged. You created a very poor impression of this year’s Party Secretariat at the China Youth Daily. A very bureaucratic impression, reminiscent of the old saying “at the instant he gets power, he begins issue a great flurry of orders”. There was a lot in your excellency’s talk, but setting aside the big talk, cliches, and insincere verbiage, it comes down to this:

1. Get in line or get out, although your excellency’s exact words were “if you don’t want to do it, just submit me a note to that effect today and we’ll take action immediately”.

2. The China Youth Daily is an official organ of the Communist Youth League, and should not be run on the basis of some abstract ideal of what a big newspaper should be.

3. Newspapers can’t run on idealism.

Your words were words were nothing but lectures, threats and ignorance.

As for the first point, the China Youth Daily colleagues sitting there listening to your admonishments already new quite well that your excellency was not just a Big Bad Wolf making threats. You were describing a policy that had already been put in place. The way the case of Vice Editor-in-Chief Fan Yongsheng, Youth Reference Chief Editor Liang Ping, and journalist Chen Jie were handled are clearly cases of “killing chickens for all the monkeys to see. The ruthless disposition of these cases has caused great distress within the paper. There were indeed serious errors in the report of the Wuhan University student-prostitute. But if we look into how this happened, we see that there was an inexperienced reporter, a negligent editor who failed to double check and to keep the editor-in-chief informed. These were errors but the punishment did not fit the crime. With the firing of a journalist, the dismissal of an editor and the “resignation” of a vice editor-in-chief your excellency has accomplished what will be known in the history of the China Youth Daily as “making a mountain out of a molehill”, “being narrowly partisan” and “hitting someone when they are down”.

According to your excellency’s logic, much of the history of the CCP’s Central Committee and China Youth Daily since the time of Hu Yaobang would have to be rewritten. This is because errors the China Youth Daily has committed in the course of over fifty years are much more serious that the report of the Wuhan University student-prostitute, although the handling of these errors and their consequences were far, far different. What about June 4th? Fifteen years ago, on May 11, 1989 in the sixth floor conference room — the very room where your excellency gave his talk — Comrade Hu Qili, who was at the time a member of the Politburo of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and was a former secrětary of the Communist Youth League spoke with the China Youth Daily on the reform of the Chinese news media system. Representing the news media to speak with high officials of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party or reporting from the Square was later determined to have been an error in political orientation. It that a serious problem or isn’t it? Now at that time the central leadership of the Communist Youth League could have adopted an opportunistic or self-protecting attitude and found a thousand-and-one reasons to “hit while they were down” the upper and middle level cadres of the China Youth Daily. And they certainly wouldn’t have faced the reaction you face today. But the central leadership of the Communist Youth League didn’t act the way you did.

After the shooting on June 4th, a responsible secretary of the Communist Youth League came to the newspaper to see us. The secretary spoke in the sixth floor conference hall. I can’t bear to inform your excellency the effect that talk had on us. It was a kind of miracle. The talk removed the doubts and opposition we at the China Youth Daily felt towards the leadership of the Communist Youth League. We had our heart-to-heart talk and came to understand each other and to realize that we at the paper had some responsibilities to bear at this time of national tragedy as we looked forward to an uncertain future. We realized that we were in the same boat at the leadership of the Communist Youth League and our fates were joined. How could it be that your talk and the talk by that secretary of the Communist Youth League had such a very different effect? The reason is simple. He spoke straightforwardly and rationally. The sixth floor conference room has been witness of the history of Chinese society and of the China Youth Daily. No matter who it may be, no matter who they express themselves, including people who behave atrociously, they are all on the record for posterity to remember. A newspaper is different from a bureaucratic organization. In a bureaucratic organization, an official just one grade higher than the others pushes imposes himself harshly on them. “Truth” and the authority to interpret “truth” lie in the hands of whomsoever is higher ranking.

Naturally, there are enlightened people within the system. Recently He Yanguang and I interviewed Comrade Hu Qili.  He hadn’t been interviewed in the fifteen years that have passed since 1989.  He all know that Comrade Hu Qili lost his job because of June 4th and in 1990 began work as the most junior vice minister in the Ministry of Electrical Machinery.  He quite rapidly mastered his new job and became an important leader in the breaking up monopolies and creating competition in  the telecommunications industry.  Ordinarily, someone who falls down five grades from being a politburo members and perhaps future Party General Secretary to a merely symbolic post where one is meant to mark time while on probation, someone who falls from the tip to the base of the power pyramid would would feel mightily discouraged and find it very hard to exert any kind of political influence.

I asked Hu about how he sees his career as an official. Hu replied a promotion doesn’t mean that your intelligence and ability are any greater.  Similarly, if you are demoted, that does not mean that your intelligence and ability are any less. Hu explained the relationship between being an official, a person, and doing one’s job. They all basically come down to being able to distinguish individual qualities and character.  You Excellency should heed the admonishment of Comrade Hu Qili.  After the “Chen Jieren affair” occurred, Fan Yongsheng asked to resign and assumed full responsibility as the top responsible person who saw the manuscript.  Some criticized him for being childish.  Others asked him to think about the good of the paper as a whole and withdraw his resignation.  He replied, “I can live with not being an official, but I cannot fail to act as an upright person.”  Come to think of it, Fan Yongsheng should be considered one of your predecessors.

In 1978 he took part in the preparatory work for the Tenth Congress of the Communist Youth League.  Back then Your Excellency was still a child.  He faced two choices: he could become a journalist at the China Youth Daily which had just resumed publishing or he could return to some area in Jiangsu Province and become a Secretary in the local Youth League Committee.  Clearly, he chose the news media as his life’s work. He was Vice Chief Editor for twenty years.  He had a good nose for news, was a broad-minded, modest and tolerant person who brought us all together.  He took the lead it many very influential reports and had an excellent reputation within the paper.  What I want to particularly emphasize is that he was well known within the paper for being an unassuming person.

More about Lu Yuegang: one of his investigative report in the style of a novel called Daguo guamin 大国寡民, Beijing Dianying chubanshe, 1998.

Lu Yuegang. (This photo is from

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