Following President Obama’s townhall meeting with students in Shanghai, during which Obama spoke out against Internet censorship, a student participant from Fudan University, Tao Weishuo (陶韡烁), was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “I strongly disagree with what Obama said about the Internet firewall… I think all Chinese people have Internet freedom – we can speak out freely on the Internet about current social affairs.” Tao’s comments generated a wave of criticism on the Chinese Internet as netizens slammed Tao for not speaking the truth about the situation in China.
Facing the onslaught of criticism, Tao has written a response to defend his position and posted it in Fudan University’s online forum (Already being deleted). Since it is relatively rare for young Chinese holding pro-government views to engage in public debate online with their critics, CDT translated portions of his post:
In this post, Tao presents his version of events surrounding the Washington Post interview. He then continues:
Let me talk about my thoughts at that time:
1. I want to first ask all those who are attacking me, have you seen the event on the live broadcast? Have you seen how Obama came to be asked this question? Let me, a person who was sitting in the second row, tell you: When Obama was in the middle of answering the previous question, a US special agent came up to the stage, and handed a note to Obama. Then Obama stopped taking questions from Chinese students, but told everyone that Ambassador Huntsman will ask a question on behalf of American netizens. [Translator’s note: The question asked of Obama and presented by Ambassador Huntsman was in fact posed by a Chinese netizen and was posted through a special web page set up by the U.S. State Department for this occasion.] Huntsman then asked this deliberately selected question about the Firewall, then President Obama started lecturing Chinese youth and the Chinese government at length. At that very moment when I heard this, I was compelled to stand up to respond to Obama directly, but I saw two security guards, as large as a mountain, staring at me, so I did not do so. Regretfully, students who asked questions after this did not rebut the President on this question. The dialogue ended harmoniously.
2. As a matter of fact, I already knew what I would say after this, if I was interviewed. I think the most important issue is, our country, Chinese people and Chinese youth should not be lectured by a foreign leader as he pleases in such an arbitrary manner, and without any reaction. In front of foreign media, the first message to be transmitted is this one. I of course know that our country has this and that fault, and can even be wrong; of course the points you raised in your criticisms of me represent the real situation. But, if you meet a foreign journalist, what action will you choose? If the same answer came out from our Premier Zhu Rongji, would you also call him “brain damaged”? Let foreigners know how much we love and protect our own country, this is my first belief. China, we can criticize ourselves, we can curse it, but cannot let foreigners arbitarily demonize and attack it.
Therefore, I always look down on those people who went to foreign countries to say China has this and that wrong, those who ask money from National Endowment for Democracy Foundation and other agencies.
3. Why do I want to stick my neck out? How do I see the current consequences and result? Indeed among the 400 students who participated in this event, I probably am the only one being attacked. Others may not say what I have said, nor have they revealed their real names. But I feel, since I have been selected, then I have a responsibility to express the views of the youth, at least my own views as a youth. Also, I do not want to be quoted by foreign media as a “Chinese student who is unwilling to disclose his name,” that’s even worse, and will aid their nonsense report even more. I expected that they will distort or selectively choose our voices, but at least someone has to tell the truth; this can make more people realize the complexity and challenge of the struggle between us and our enemies. I of course am not that naive to believe that all I have said is true, but they are not lies either.
华盛顿邮报是怎样的报纸呢？很多人不会不知道吧？他在报我的回答之前的一段写到，Even the students who posed questions to Obama were pre-selected, and most appeared to be members of the Chinese Communist Party Youth League. 同学们，骂我的同学们，不是团员的请举手。我相信，要在复旦、交大、上外、同济等8所名校中找齐500个不是团员的听众肯定要比登天还难。大家为什么愿意相信华盛顿邮报这样的报纸对中国的报道，而不愿意为一个相信一个你身边的同学呢？
What kind of paper is the Washington Post? Not many people really do not know, right? The reporter wrote the following paragraph before my quote “Even the students who posed questions to Obama were pre-selected, and most appeared to be members of the Chinese Communist Party Youth League.”
My fellow students, my fellow students who attack me, please raise your hand if you are not a member of the Communist Youth League. I believe, it is nearly impossible to find 500 non-Communist Youth League member students in the eight outstanding universities such as Fudan, Jiatong University, Shanghai Foreign Language University and Tongji University. Why does everyone want to believe a China story reported in a newspaper like the Washington Post, instead of believing [me] your fellow student right next to you?
If I did not answer this way, and agreed with Obama, what will the Washington Post reporter write? WIll they make it even a bigger issue by exaggerating it? If no one answers this question, what they will write then? They will write that all Chinese young students are silenced on this question.
In the process of our ancient and great country rising again to the world, there will be no lack of criticism from inside and out. In the process of our country developing and fighting with external bias perspectives, someone will be sacrificed. If that person is me, I will follow those who went before me, and devote myself to justice without hesitation. If the same situation replays again, I will give the reporter the same comprehensive answer.
This is the choice made by me, a man of Fudan, a member of the Chinese Communist Party.
Since the Washington Post report, Tao Weishuo had been given a new moniker by the twittersphere: “Internet Freedom Man (网络自由男).” Some bloggers also dug up past quotes Tao has given to Chinese media, translated by CDT:
Tao Weishuo, graduate student at the School of International Relations at Fudan University, in news reports over the years
Tao Weishuo, a student in Fudan University’s International Politics department, points out that the United States has consistently held a double standard in regards to human rights. In fact, from Panama to Kosovo, U.S. bombings have resulted in a large number of civilian casualties, and [America] has seriously trampled on local people’s fundamental rights to survival and development.
Tao Weishuo, a master’s degree student from Fudan University’s International Politics department, expressed that the CCP general secretary’s speech clearly illustrated that today’s youth ought to develop themselves at the level of the individual before joining with the country down its excellent route to prosperous development. [He also noted] that the address was an important document in guiding his country’s youth movement. As graduate students in the new era, we ought to aim for higher goals and strive to be world-class. We must work diligently, be assiduous innovators, and unrelentingly promote the development of our country’s scientific education.
Fudan University graduate student, counselor of the 0909 undergraduate class, told reporters that after the outbreak of the overseas AH1N1 flu, [his] school immediately launched a broad educational campaign asking students to pay attention to disease prevention and hygiene, and to immediately report any abnormal [symptoms] to teachers and campus authorities. Currently, campus student life is normal, which includes study abroad and foreign exchange students and teachers. There has been no panic.
Tao Weishuo, international relations and public affairs student at Fudan University:
I think out of Obama’s entire speech, including the Q&A session afterwards, the part that left me with the deepest impression was that Sino-American relations are already far outside the scope of bilateral relations. Rather, China and America are a pair on the global stage with remarkably strong influence. [I noted this] particularly during Obama’s response to the question of what he would like to take away from China. He mentioned that as regards carbon emissions reduction, all countries look to how China and America are exercising their leadership. Also very interesting is that he said that if China and America do not discuss the problem, then other countries may say that China and America are not taking the carbon emissions reduction question seriously. So what I wish to say is that [what Obama said] represents that America has practically already admitted to China’s status as a global leader.
Update: Here is the item of Tao Weishuo on Hudongbaike, a Chinese version of WIkipedia-like website.