The Open Letter from Li Datong

In the matter of the shutdown of the Freezing Point weekly supplement of China Youth Daily, the world was obviously trying to interview the editor Li Datong (see History Textbooks in China).  The following is a translation of his open letter.  His weblog has been shut down and any posting about this affair at bulletin board systems and forums will probably be deleted within moments of posting.  So the principal method of propagation is through blogs and emails.  If you have the means and connections, you should forward either the original or the translation to your network.

[in translation]

A public protest against the illegal stoppage of the Freezing Point weekly magazine

Dear news media colleagues, intellectuals, legal professional friends and devoted readers of Freezing Point inside and outside of China:

On January 24, 2006, Tuesday, which the deadline for the Freezing Point weekly magazine, the Beijing editorial staff of Freezing Point worked as usual to edit and proof-read the weekly edition scheduled for January 25.  At just after 4pm, we were ready with everything and the pages were forwarded to the editor-in-chief for review and print.  The unusual aspect was that there was no reaction for a long while.  We gathered that all the newspaper leadership had been called to the League Central Office for an emergency meeting and nobody was minding the store.  This meant that something extraordinary was about to happen.

Then the skies fell down.  The newspaper will be published as usual, because this is our obligation to our subscribers and readers.  We looked for any possible errors and we patiently waited for the breaking event.  Based on the fact that the Central Propaganda Department never ceased in their criticisms of Freezing Point and most recently the Central Propaganda Department criticism group issued an Cultural Revolution-style critique of Yuan Weishi's essay on "Modernization and Historical Textbooks" on the Internet, I suspected that it was my moment to be dismissed as the editor-in-chief.

But the contemptible level was beyond the imagination of ordinary person.  At just after 5pm, the telephone calls from various media friends around the country began to arrive.  They told us that they have received the notice from the Central Propaganda Department, the State Council and the Beijing News Office to "not report or comment on the stoppage of Freezing Point," "not attend any press conference given by the editorial and reporting staff of Freezing Point," "not hype," "maintain the distance" and so on.  Thereafter, the overseas media reporters called non-stop to ask me to confirm the facts.  But until 7pm, nobody had notified me formally.  When the newspaper leadership returned from the meeting the League Central, they went into a meeting to discuss matters.  I was the last person to know about this affair.  All the information proved that this was something certain persons in the upper level of the party dared to risk public contempt and plotted carefully to take this action.  This action had no legal or constitutional basis, and seriously violated and trampled upon the party constitution and political standards of the party.

As a professional media worker, I cannot understand the stoppage of Freezing Pont.  I cannot accept this.  A newspapers is a public instrument.  The newspaper has a social contract with the subscribes and the readers, and it is a source of information that the readers pay money for and therefore the newspaper must fulfill its contract no matter what.  Therefore, the Freezing Point weekly magazine should be delivered into the hands of the subscribers.  Yet for the person who made this decision, what did the social impact mean?  What does the broad readership mean?  What does the reputation of a mainstream newspaper mean?  What do the party constitution and the national constitution mean?  What does the image of Chinese reform mean?  What does the image of the governing party mean?  They regard the social instrument as a personal property to be disposed of at their own will.

At 730pm in the evening, I received a call from the publisher and editor-in-chief to go and speak to them.  The decision about me was made by the League Central Propaganda Department.  The "decision" gave Mr. Yuan Weishi an uncalled-for label and then announced that Freezing Point will be stopped for reorganization.  Apart from the personal attacks against the editor-in-chief and myself, there were also "economic sanctions."  Who gave them that kind of power?  They are so disgusting that I don't know whether to cry or laugh.

Of course, with the aforementioned background, this conversation was a farce.  Obviously, this was controlled by a small number of people "above" in the background and the League Central was just playing the role of the fools.  I used reasoning to condemn the "decision" as well as the absurdity of the Central Propaganda Department's News Criticisms.  I told the publisher and editor-in-chief that I will formally complain to the party central disciplinary committee about this illegal act.

On the day when Freezing Point weekly magazine stopped publication, the newspaper received a large number of telephone inquiries from readers.  I learned that readers are angrily terminating their subscriptions at the postal offices on account of the stoppage of Freezing Point.

A small number of people "above" have plotted for a long time to strangle Freezing Point.  On June 1, 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the victory of the anti-Fascist war, Freezing Point published the essay on "Pingyingguan battle and Pingyingguan victory", in which we recorded the historical truth about how the Kuomintang and Communist Party worked together in the face of national survival to win the battle with their blood.  This was different from the unification propaganda, because Freezing Point was the first in mainstream media to objectively report on how the Kuomintang army sacrificed tens of thousands of warriors in this battle.

This true historical account attracted the brutal criticism by the Central Propaganda Department's Criticism Group.  What is the basis of their criticism?  It was based upon the "XX year XX publisher's Chinese Communist Party history about the Pingyuanguan victory."  The Freezing Point report "glorified the Kuomintang and debased the Communist Party."  In the end, at the memorial meeting of the 60th anniversary of the victory in the anti-Fascist war, Communist Party General Secretary comrade Hu Jintao said in his memorial speech that he affirmed the contribution of the Kuomintang solders in the war of resistance against the Japanese.  It was clear that who was right and who was wrong in this case.

When Lian and Soong completed their visits to Taiwan, the renowned Taiwan writer Ms. Lung Yingtai published a long essay at Freezing Point titled "The Taiwan That You May Not Know."  The essay used a rich content to objectively and truthfully present to the people of China for the first time the changes and developments in Taiwan over the past few decades.  It created a tremendous response and approval among readers and had an important impact on communication between the people on the two sides of the Taiwan strait.  But this essay was accused by certain people within the Central Propaganda Department as being "against the Communist Party at every step" and their narrow-mindedness was truly astonishing.

On November 18, the party central held a solemn memorial for the great proletariat revolutionary Hu Yaobang's 90th birthday.  Comrade Zeng Qinghong represented the Party Central Committee to pay tribute to Comrade Hu Yaobang's glorious accomplishments and he was warmly received by the people.  But certain members in the Central Propaganda Department forbade the media to publish memorial articles of Comrade Hu Yaobang and required that all media can only publish the Xinhua release and nothing of their own creation.

On December 7, 2005, Freezing Point published Comrade Hu Qili's long memorial essay "The Yaobang of My Heart" and drew a tremendous response.  The media inside and outside of China carried that essay.  Numerous netizens posted comments to say how they had been moved to tears.  About that well-received essay, the Central Propaganda Department called the newspaper to complain and claimed that the newspaper had violated rule of "not having any voluntary choice."!  For those people, they felt no genuine emotion or grief over Comrade Hu Yaobang!

A small number at the Central Propaganda Department had numerous unreasonable complaints and criticisms against Freezing Point.  For example, on November 30, 2005, Freezing Point published a reporter's investigation about the academic plagiarism by Wuhan law professor Zhou Yezhong.  When professor Zhou was interviewed by the Freezing Point reporter, he said: "You better not mind this matter!  Sooner or later, the Central Propaganda Department is going to come after you!  Your editor-in-chief will come after you!"  When the report was published, certain people at the Central Propaganda Department came after us and complained that the essay had major problems with editorial directions.

Under these pressures, Freezing Pont withdrew its follow-up report.  On December 28, 2005, Freezing Point published a historical first weekly edition of only three pages.  We ask just who the small number of people at the Central Propaganda Department were protecting?

Now, they are looking for a final accounting with Freezing Point!  The essay of Mr. Yuan Weishi is just an excuse.  Professor Yuan Weishi has published numerous works on contemporary history and he has great influence among intellectuals.  When Professor Yuan wrote this article, it was based upon historical materials and his theoretical basis is about the rationality of openness.  After the essay was published, it generated a great response.  On any discussion of historical issues, it is necessary to have materials as well as viewpoints and to exchange ideas in a calm and peaceful manner in order to reach agreement.  Of the many Internet commentary, even those netizens who disagreed with Mr. Yuan were very serious and their rebuttals were very solid.  I have personally forwarded some of these comments to Mr. Yuan and he replied afterwards that these essays were very rigorous and he would seriously consider their viewpoints and make the appropriate responses.  This is a healthy and normal kind of academic exchange.  But the Central Propaganda Department Criticism Group used insults and characterizations in the style of the Cultural Revolution and then nothing else!?

This incident exposes the basic flaws in the news control system of our country.  A small number of people in the Central Propaganda Department have a narrow worldview and mind and used dictatorial methods to impose controls that deaden what should be a lively political scene in which a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools speak out.  These people want obedience and not equality.  Which item in the party constitution of the Communist Party lets them do that?

We will write elsewhere about the flaws of our national news control system.  Here, we just want to tell our colleagues, readers and friends just what had happened and why it happened.  When one does not have the truth, one is afraid of debates; when one does not have the truth, one is afraid of openness.  Although certain people in the Central Propaganda Department used their power to lock up all the media and websites, we believe that you will see this letter!  You will know the power of truth!

We thank you sincerely!

China Youth Daily Freezing Point weekly magazine editor Li Datong
January 25, 2006


就《冰点》周刊被非法停刊的公开抗议

新闻界的同行们、知识界、法律界的朋友们、《冰点》周刊海内外的热心读者们:
2006年1月24日,星期二,是《冰点》周刊的发稿日,《冰点》在京编采如往日一样,齐集编辑部,认真校对将于1月25日出版的新的一期周刊。下午4点多,版样全部出齐,送总编辑审阅付印。然而反常的是,迟迟没有回音。我们听到,报社领导层被全部召到团中央开紧急会议,没有人看大样了。这意味着将有不同寻常的事情要发生。

天塌下来,报纸也是要正常出版的,这是对所有订户、所有读者负责。我们将大样中所有发现的错漏改定,静等事变的发生。鉴于中宣部对《冰点》的批评指责从来就没有断过,星期一还刚刚见到中宣部阅评小组对《冰点》刊发的袁伟时教授的文章《现代化与历史教科书》作出的文革式上纲上线的蛮横指责,作为主编,我估计,撤销我职务的时刻来到了。

然而卑鄙所能达到的程度,总是超出常人的想像。大约5点多钟,全国各个媒体朋友们的电话纷至沓来,告诉我他们已接到中宣部、国务院新闻办、北京市新闻局的通知,"不许刊登任何冰点停刊整顿的消息和评论"、"不许参加冰点编采召开的新闻发布会"、"不许炒作"、"要保持距离"等等。继而,各个海外媒体记者的电话也络绎不绝,要求我证实这件事。然而直到7点,还没有人正式通知我,报社领导层从团中央回来,还在开会商量。我反倒成了最后一个知道这件事的人。所有信息证明,这是一个党内高层某些人甘冒天下之大不讳,蓄谋已久、精心策划的行动。这个行动,不仅没有任何宪法和法律的依据,也严重违反、践踏了党章与党内政治生活准则。

作为一个职业报人,《冰点》停刊是我最不能理解、最不能接受的事情。因为报纸是社会公器,报社与订户、读者有契约,是读者付款购买的信息产品,报社必须履约,不管个人的命运如何,《冰点》周刊应该如期送到订户手中。然而在作出这个决定的人那里,社会影响算什么?广大读者算什么?主流大报的声誉算什么?党章国法算什么?中国改革开放的形象算什么?执政党的形象又算什么?他们将社会公器视为个人的家产,认为可以随意处置。

晚上7点30分,我接到社长、总编辑叫我上去谈话的电话。对我宣布的决定,是团中央宣传部作出的。"决定"将袁伟时先生的文章冠以若干莫须有的大帽子,然后宣布《冰点》周刊"停刊整顿";除对总编辑和我本人通报批评外,还要作"经济处罚",谁给了他们这种权力!心态如此之龌龊,令人哭笑不得。

自然,这场谈话在前述种种背景之下,已经成了一场滑稽剧。很明显,这是"上面"少数人在背后操纵,团中央在前台扮演丑角。我据理向社长、总编辑痛斥这份"决定" 和中宣部《新闻阅评》的荒唐,并向他们宣告:我将正式向党中央纪律检查委员会控告这次非法行为。

就在《冰点》周刊被停刊的今天,报社接到大量读者的询问电话,已有读者在得知《冰点》停刊后愤而去邮局退订本报。

"上面"少数人对《冰点》周刊的扼杀,蓄谋已久。2005年6月1日,在反法西斯战争胜利60周年纪念日前夕,《冰点》刊发了《平型关战役与平型关大捷》一文,真实记录了面对民族危亡,国共两党两军密切合作、相互配合、浴血奋战的真实历史场景。与传统宣传不同的是,《冰点》首次在主流媒体上客观真实地报道了国民党将士在这场战斗中牺牲数万人的战斗历程。

这样一篇真实的历史描述,却遭到中宣部阅评组的蛮横批评。他们批评的根据是什么呢?没有任何事实,而是根据"年出版社的中共党史页关于平型关大捷的记述",《冰点》的报道是"美化国民党,贬低共产党"。结果,在纪念中国反法西斯战争胜利60周年的大会上,党中央总书记胡锦涛同志,在纪念讲话中全面肯定了国民党将士在抗日战争主战场上的功绩。谁对谁错,不言自明。

在连、宋访问大陆结束之际,台湾著名作家龙应台女士在《冰点》发表长篇文章《你可能不知道的台湾》。文章用丰富的材料,首次客观真实地向大陆人民介绍了台湾几十年来的变化和发展,在读者中引起了强烈的反响和好评,对沟通两岸民众起到了极为重要的作用。而这样一篇文章,竟被中宣部某些人指责为"处处针对共产党",其眼界和心胸之狭隘令人惊诧。

去年11月18日,党中央隆重召开了伟大的无产阶级革命家胡耀邦同志诞辰90周年的纪念会,曾庆红同志代表党中央对耀邦同志一生的光辉业迹、伟大人格作了充分阐述,受到人民群众的热烈欢迎。而中宣部的某些人却禁止媒体发表纪念耀邦同志的回忆文章,规定只许发表新华社通稿,各媒体不允许有自选动作。

2005年12月7日,《冰点》刊发胡启立同志的长篇回忆文章《我心中的耀邦》,引起强烈反响,海内外中文媒体纷纷转载,无数网友发帖说被文章感动得热泪盈眶。对这样一篇起到极好社会反响的文章,中宣部竟打电话到报社来问罪,称报社违反了"没有自选动作"的规定!在这些人那里,哪有一点对胡耀邦同志的真感情、真悼念啊!

中宣部少数人对《冰点》的无理指责和批评还有很多。譬如,2005年11月30日《冰点》刊发记者调查,披露了武汉大学法学教授周叶中在学术著作中的剽窃行为。这位周教授在《冰点》记者采访他时,竟有恃无恐地劝告道:你就不要管这事儿了,晚上中宣部就要找你的!你们总编辑会找你的!报道刊发后,果然遭到了中宣部某些人气势汹汹地问罪,蛮横地指责这篇报道有严重的舆论导向问题。

正是在这种压力下,《冰点》对此事的后续报道被撤版。2005年12月28日,《冰点》历史性地出了一期只有三块版的周刊。试问,中宣部的少数人究竟在保护什么行为?

现在,他们终于要跟《冰点》算总帐了!用袁伟时先生的文章为发难对象不过是个幌子。袁伟时教授在近代史的研究上著述颇多,在知识界影响很大。袁教授写的这篇文章依据的是史料,立论基础是开放的理性。文章发表后,亦引起很大反响。本来,对历史问题的讨论,需要对材料和观点有平等的、心平气和地交流,才能逐渐达到共识。诸多网上评论中,即便是不赞同袁先生文章的网友,也有态度十分认真、考据十分扎实的反驳文章。我本人曾将这些帖子转给袁先生参考,袁先生看后对我回复说:这些文章态度确实十分严谨,我将会认真考虑他们的观点,作出相应的回复。这正是一种健康的、正常的学术交流。而中宣部的阅评除了文革式的詈骂和扣帽子、打棍子,还有什么?!

这次事件再次集中暴露出我国新闻管理体制的根本性弊端,那就是中宣部少数人以其狭隘的眼界、逼仄的心胸、专制蛮横的工作方法,将本应该百花齐放、百家争鸣的活跃政治局面,管制得万马齐喑、一片死气沉沉。这些人要的是顺从,而不是平等。这种专权,中国共产党党章的哪一条授予过他们?!

对我国新闻管理体制的弊端,我们将另文论述。在这封信里,我们只是想告诉同行们、读者们、朋友们,到底发生了什么,为什么会发生。没有真理害怕辩论,没有真相惧怕公开。尽管中宣部的某些人动用权力,封锁所有媒介和网络,但我们相信,你们一定会看到这封信!你们有知道真相的权力!

衷心地感谢你们!

中国青年报《冰点》周刊主编 李大同
2006年1月25日


(Ming Pao) January 27, 2006.

位於風口浪尖中的李大同昨日下午回應本報查詢時戲稱,「我剛起。不在其位,不謀其政,美美地睡了一覺。到現在為止,沒人找我談話。」被問到如此高調與當局抗爭,有否擔心會受中共黨政紀律處分時,他朗聲說道﹕「我就不信他們(中宣部)敢肆無忌憚。我不信,也不怕這個」﹔「我們很多人(遇到這種情時),都是自己嚇自己,其實他們(中宣部)沒那麼了不起。」

李大同在這封3000字公開信中表示,《冰點》自刊登袁偉時教授的文章《現代化與歷史教科書》後不久,即受到中宣部「文革式上綱上線」的蠻橫指摘,「我已估計撤銷我職務的時刻來到了」。周二(24日)下午,他接到全國各間傳媒朋友來電查詢「周刊被停」一事,並告知中宣部、國新辦等已下令傳媒「禁止炒作」、要與冰點周刊「保持距離」等,他成為「最後一個知道事件的人」。

他表示,「這是一個黨內高層某些人甘冒天下之大不韙,蓄謀已久、精心策劃的行動。不僅沒有任何憲法法律依據,也嚴重違反、踐踏了黨章與黨內政治生活準則」﹔「在作出這個決定的人那裏,社會影響算什麼﹖讀者算什麼﹖大報聲譽算什麼﹖中國改革開放形象算什麼﹖」「這是上面少數人在背後操縱,團中央在前台扮演丑角的滑稽劇」﹔他們「將社會公器視為個人的家產,隨意處置」﹔「我將向黨中央紀律檢查委員會控告這次非法行為」。