The Case of the Public Interest Times Editor

First, here are the western media reports:

(South China Morning Post via Asia Media)  Editor fired over reports criticising authorities.  February 9, 2006.

A chief editor of the outspoken Beijing-based newspaper the Public Interest Times was sacked yesterday after executives came under pressure from the authorities amid the ongoing tightening of official control over the media.  Sources inside the newspaper said it was announced that Chen Jieren, 34, who had worked as chief editor of its Tuesday edition for five months, had been sacked. On Tuesday, the newspaper carried a story criticising incorrect English translations on the central government's newly launched official website.

Sources said the General Affairs Office of the State Council informed the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which is in charge of the newspaper, that the story should not have been carried because it "negatively affected the image of the Chinese government".  In response, the newspaper's executives sacked Mr Chen, who was also blamed for running several other stories that upset the authorities.

It is not known whether the Ministry of Civil Affairs is considering further steps such as closing down the Public Interest Times.  Sources said several other sensitive stories were also mentioned as reasons for Mr Chen's sacking.  The Public Interest Times ran an investigative story last month that said more than 50 million yuan in relief funds allocated by Beijing to flood victims in Weinan, Shaanxi province, had been held up by provincial and municipal governments. The story upset the Shaanxi government, which complained to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.  The newspaper also carried a profile of President Hu Jintao last month which was greeted with shock by Civil Affairs Minister Li Xueju because it apparently violated the rule that all stories on the central leadership must be written by Xinhua.

(Associated Press)  Denial over editor's removal.  By Audra Ang.  February 10, 2006.

The editor-in-chief of a Beijing newspaper has denied reports that one of its employees had been fired over an article that was critical of the mainland government.  Liu Youping, the editor-in-chief of the Public Interest Times, said Chen wasn't fired because of the article but because he "was not good at managing.  "He was sacked because of his work. His section was late every week," Liu said.  He said Chen is now working as one of the regular editors at the paper.

A spokesman at the Ministry of Civil Affairs said the ministry is not in charge of personnel issues at the newspaper.  "Job changes are an internal affair," said the spokesman, who refused to give his name. 

(Deutsche Welle-Chinese via Boxun)

[in translation]  

Recently, the Tuesday edition of Public Interest Times which is under the Ministry of Civil Affairs published an interesting interview.  The subject was the errors in the English-language pages of the Chinese government website.  In the article, English-language teacher Huang Weifeng of Wenzhou University criticized the many errors that appeared in the recently launched Chinese government website.  Shortly after, the weekly magazine's magazine editor Chen Jieren was demoted to regular editor.  Today, our reporter interviewed Public Interest Times editor-in-chief Liu Youping and the principal Chen Jieren, and got completely different answers.

The title of the Public Interest Times article was "Teacher Criticizes English Presentation Problems At The Chinese Government Website."  The article was an interview with Wenzhou University English teacher Huang Weifeng.  During the interview, Huang Weifeng offered criticisms of several articles about education on the English edition of the Chinese government website.  He thought that the translation was stiff, with many grammatical errors.  At the end of the article, Huang Weifeng believes that the numerous errors at the government website was due to lack of attention from the leaders, poor quality of translation, bureaucratic behavior, etc.  Allegedly, certain government departments thought that this article affected the image of China to the outside and therefore applied pressure on Public Interest Times to demote the weekly magazine's editor-in-chief Chen Jieren to regular editor.

But when Public Interest Times editor-in-chief Liu Youping was interviewed by our reporter, he denied that the demotion of Chen Jieren had any connection to that article.  He said that Chen Jieren was demoted because he could not handle the job of editor-in-chief.  The demotion was decided before the Chinese New Year.  In order to demonstrate that Chen Jieren was unsuitable to be the editor-in-chief, Liu Youping offered two examples: "He kept writing articles for the outside and he could not complete his required work on time.  Last year, he brought in his wife to be the lead editor without informing the leaders."

With respect to this controversial article, Liu Youping said that the article was just released and he has not heard any criticism related to it.  Personally he has not received any criticism or pressure from any part of the government.  In order to verify the newspaper's position, the reporter contacted the demoted Chen Jieren.  He immediately refuted the newspaper's position.  "They are talking rubbish.  I was demoted because that article was problematic.  Originally, I did not want to be interviewed.  On the day of the demotion, they held a criticism session of me in the morning.  Later, at the demotion meeting, the reason offered was also that article.  I have colleagues who can testify to that ..."

Chen Jieren believed that it was the other articles before the one about the government website that formed the problem.  Senior leaders believed that these articles were erroneous in opinion formation and that was the real reason for his demotion.  As for the two examples that editor-in-chief Liu Youping gave, Chen said that he was a veteran commentator and it was normal to write for other publications and websites during his spare time.  The newspaper also knew what happened with his wife being brought in as the lead editor.  At the time, the newspaper was shorthanded, so he recommended his wife to work a few days at the newspaper.  She worked as a regular editor, not the lead editor.  He found it unacceptable for the newspaper to use these matters as the reasons to demote him.

Chen Jieren published a detailed rebuttal that amounted to 10,000 words (see Comment 200602#029).  The Chinese version is here.

Now here are some random thoughts from the EastSouthWestNorth blogger:

The link to Chinese-language article by Huang Weifeng is here.  The article has a large number of English sentences that were used as illustration.  Do you find them problematic like Huang Weifeng did?

1. In 2003, the educational sector made new progress in reforms and development in line with the objective of building a well-off society and improving educational services to satisfy people's demands and in implementation of the guideline of national rural education work conference.

2. 12 provinces and municipalities have realized the requirement of the plans. 

3. Due to readjustment of school setups and the decreasing population at schooling age, the number of primary schools and pupils studying at school were on the decline.

4. The ratio between the enrolled pupils and children at schooling age was 98.65 percent; the schooling rate of boys and girls was 98.69 and 98.61 percent respectively.

5. The difference between the male and female students at school was 0.08 percentage points. 

6. The five-year consolidation rate for the pupils at primary school was 98.80 percent, basically the same with 2002. 

7. The enrollment rate of the pupils to junior high school was 97.9 percent, rising 0.88 percentage points.

8. The number of the teachers and staff members in primary schools decreased slightly and the qualification rate of full-time teachers was on the rise. 

9. There were 6,256,200 teachers and staff members in primary schools in the country, decreasing 84,000 from previous year. 

10. Of the total, full-time teachers were 5,702,800, reducing 76,100. 

11. The qualification rate of full-time teachers of primary school was 97.85 percent, rising 0.46 percentage points over the previous year. 

12. The ratio between teachers and pupils in primary school was 1:20.5, lower than 1:21.04 of the previous year.

13. With the realization of the target of popularization of nine-year compulsory education and due to the decrease of the children at schooling age, the number of enrollment to junior high schools slightly declined. 

14. But the number of students at school and students graduated from school increased.

15. There were 64,700 junior high schools (including 1,019 vocational junior high schools), decreasing 1,000 from 2002. 

16. The number of students enrolled into junior high schools was 22,201,300, decreasing 616,900. 

17. The school conditions of junior high schools and primary schools were further improved.

18. 50.2 percent of primary schools and 65.68 junior high schools had their sport fields or gymnasium reached targeted area; 38.66 percent of primary schools and 53.95 percent of junior high schools had their musical instruments meet the requirements; 36.69 percent of primary schools and 52.43 percent of junior high schools had their fine art fittings reached the target respectively; 49.8 percent of primary schools and 70.17 percent of junior high schools had their mathematical and experimental instruments reach the target respectively.

19. Of the students, blind students at special school for the blind were 38,300; those at special school for the deaf, 109,800; retarded ones at the special school, 216,600.

20. There were 15,800 general senior high schools, increasing 400 over 2002; the enrolled students were 7,521,300, rising 754,300 or 11.15 percent; the number of the students at school was 19,648,300, rising 2,810,200 or 16.69 percent; the number of students graduated from senior high school was 4,581,200, increasing 743,600 or 19.38 percent.

21. China had 720 universities or institutes eligible to provide courses for graduate study, including 407 universities and 313 scientific research institutes.

22. Of the number, 48,700 for doctor degrees and 220,200 for master degrees. 

23. The number of graduates that completed study and left school was 111,100, rising 30,300 over 2002. 

24. The work of "two basic education plans" (plans for popularizing nine-year compulsory education and eliminating illiteracy among young and middle-aged people) made new progress. 

25. By the end of 2003, of the 699 counties in ethnic autonomous regions and prefectures (including ethnic autonomous counties and banners), 405 counties have reached the targets of "two basic education plans", accounting for 57.9 percent of the total. 

26. The special policies and measures for the cultivation of ethnic minority talents and supporting development of higher education in ethnic minority group inhabited areas were further improved. 

27. Some remarkable progress was achieved in the support from inner areas to the development of the education in the ethnic minority group inhabited areas and in the education of unity among ethnic groups in primary and secondary schools.

28. In May 2003, the Ministry of Education issued the experiment draft of Standard for Ideological and Ethic Education Curricula for full-time compulsory education. Thus, the standard for all ideological and ethic education for compulsory education was fulfilled. 

29. To implement the guideline of the 16th CPC National Congress on ideological and ethnic education among teenagers and the State Council on education for prevention of AIDS and drug, and on environment, the ministry organized experts to formulate the outline for the education on prevention of AIDS among students at middle and primary school and that for the education on prevention of drug, and that for environment.

30. In 2003, China has enlisted 269,697 graduates for Master- and Doctor-degree studies (not including those enlisted into military universities and students from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan), increasing 34.46 percent over 2002.

31. In 2003, about 100,000 students registered for the examination for Ph. D. study, rising 20.5 percent. 48,899 were enlisted into Ph. D. programs, rising 29.1 percent over 2002.

32. In 2003, 2,153 students from Hong Kong and Macao SAR and Taiwan Province applied for the examination for graduate study in the mainland, rising 17.8 percent over 2002. 

33. Of the 527,400 students studying or studied abroad, 356,600 are continuing their study abroad, or engaging in cooperative research and academic visiting programs (with 36.45 percent in America, 28.06 percent in Europe, 22.01 percent in Asia, 12.89 percent in Oceania, 0.59 percent in Africa).

34. From 1978 to 2003, the total number of Chinese students studying abroad reached 700,200 while the number of returned ones was 172,800. 

35. In 2003, the central government increased investment in vocational education and they have invested 750 million yuan into the education. 

36. There were 11.82 million students at school, basically the same with the previous year.

37. By 2007, all rural students in poverty, whose total family income is below 625 yuan ($75.5) annually, at compulsory education age (between seven to 16) are eligible for exemption from tuition and textbook fees. Poor boarding students are offered a living allowance. 

38. The goal of the system is to allow no student to drop from school due to inability to pay the costs.

39. "An important factor that restricts the development of compulsory education in rural areas is lack of funds".

40. National funding for education in rural areas reached 99 billion yuan ($11.96 billion), increasing 1.3 times in five years time. 

41. The average funds for primary and middle schools in rural areas are much lower than that of the national average. 

42. Even in areas that have installed compulsory education, there are sharp differences between rural and urban education, especially in terms of access to technology.

43. To pay teaching staffs and administer facilities, rural schools short of funds are compelled to collect money from students. 

44. Lack of funds also leads to lack of teachers in rural areas. 

45. Because of poverty, lots of teachers have tried to transfer to other places and some have quit their schools and changed to other jobs since the school is short of staff, many teachers have to teach several subjects, like Chinese, mathematics, music and physical education. 

46. As of 2004, the fund fee for textbooks will increase from 200 million yuan ($24.15 million) in 2003 to 400 million yuan ($48.31 million) every year. 

47. As China's poor population is concentrated in its rural western region, the difficulty of rural education also can be found in the west.

48. Urban school teachers have it vastly better than their rural counterparts in western China.

49. The Ministry of Education takes information technology as the key to improve the education in the west. 

50. A total of 10,000 experimental schools were set up in western areas already.

51. With the joint efforts of educational and financial departments, the program went on smoothly and achieved major progress.

52. The development of the program: First, the funds for the program is well arranged. 

53. By September 2003, 4.6 billion yuan was allocated to the program, accounting for 97.9 percent of the planned funds for the program, including 30 billion yuan from the central level and 1.6 billion yuan from localities. 

54. Second, the implementation of the program achieved remarkable progress.