A Chinese Reporter in Japan

(Tom.com)  On August 17, a forum post appeared at Tianya Club, Xici Hutong and other forums.  The title of the post was "Phoenix TV reporter Yan Jialu (颜嘉璐) does not deserve to be a reporter, much less a Chinese!"  At Tianya Club alone, the post was viewed more than 15,000 times with more than 250 comments.

Here is the incident: On August 15, Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi went to pay tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine, and the Taiwanese aboriginal representative Kao Chin Su-Mei organized a protest group.  Taipei-based Phoenix TV reporter Yan Jialu followed the story.

Here is Yan Jialu's description of the critical event:

While we were filming, a man walked towards us.  This was a middle-aged Japanese man, about thirty or forty years old.

This middle-aged man does not appear to be a local Tokyo person.  For the Japanese, this was the time to sweep the ancestral graves, so he probably came to the Shrine to pay respects to his ancestors.

He saw us filming and thought that we knew how to take photographs.  So he came over with a camera and asked us to help him film.  It was hard to imagine that such a trivial matter almost led to a conflict.

At the time, we were not speaking Chinese.

Before we got there, a Japanese taxi driver warned us: For your own safety, you better not use Chinese once you enter.

Actually, there has never been any problems usually for sight-seeing.  But the atmosphere these few days has been very sensitive.  The right-wing elements inside the Yasukuni Shrine do not know why you come here for.  But because China's current position is that they oppose Junichiro Koizumi visiting the Yasukuni Shrine and they oppose to militarism, the right-wing elements will assume that you share those positions as soon as you start speaking Chinese.

Therefore, the driver warned us not to speak Chinese.  Also he warned us about the logos on our microphones.  We went with the CTV and ETTV people and their logos contain Chinese characters.  So the driver advised them to remove the Chinese-language logos from the microphones.  Our Phoenix TV logo is only a graphic, so we were not concerned.

After we helped the Japanese middle-aged man take the photographs, he thanked us in Japanese.  I said that it was alright in Japanese.  But my Japanese pronunciation is different from the Japanese people.  Perhaps I don't speak Japanese well and I may have a Chinese accent.

The middle-aged man obviously realized this and his expression changed immediately.  He had been all smiles, but he suddenly looked ferocious.  He asked; "Where are you from?"

I was scared and I did not have time to think.  Before I came here, I was warned to think about safety first.  At the time, there was no Chinese characters on my microphone and so I quickly said: "I'm from the United States."   Then he reverted back to a smiling face and said, "Oh, oh, oh.  I welcome you."

I did not think that I showed my fear, or it would have been too obvious.

But the way that the man's expression changed was somewhat frightening.

For what she did, Yan Jialu got a ton of bricks thrown at her on the Internet.  Here is an example (via ReporterHome.com):

When Yan Jialu related the incident on television that night, she sound so elated and proud about how clever and smart she was!  She had no sense of shame about having done something stupid!  It makes a listener so angry and pained!  I suddenly understood why the "little Japan" on the small islands could get to a point when they can insult our Great China, sit on our heads and defecate today.  That is because some of us are cowardly, weak and selfish, and this encouraged the Japanese to be even more aggressive.

Yan Jialu!  I ask you!  Is Kao Chin Su-Mei  a Chinese person?  When she brought so many Chinese persons to enter the Yasukuni Shrine to protest, did she say that she was from America?  She is a woman too!  Why do you refuse to emulate this heroic model and be a coward instead?  Yan Jialu!  I ask you.  There were many Japanese citizens at the scene protesting against the actions of Junichiro Koizumi.  As Japanese, they were not afraid of the threats from their compatriots and they defended justice and called for peace.  Don't you feel ashamed as a Chinese facing them?

I used to be a reporter and I know that "deftness" and "slickness" are basic qualities that a reporter ought to have. The deftness and slickness may apply to the minor things, but not the major issues such as the integrity of the Chinese people or the honor of the people and the nation.  Yan Jialu, have you thought how the Japanese will despise you once they learned that you said, "I'm from America"?  How they will make fun of the Chinese people!  If it were me, I would have magnified the Phoenix TV logo and I would tell those Japanese right-wing elements that I am a Chinese and I am a Chinese reporter!  What will you do?  Kill me?  Great, I sacrifice myself to expose their ugly faces.  I will use my warm blood to awaken my compatriots and all the millions of peace-loving people in the world -- besides, they would not dare kill anyone at the scene at the time?

At the same time, on the day after Koizumi's visit, I read a related report in Global Times.  The Japan-based People's Daily reporter (I forgot the name) wrote that the Japanese right-wing elements surrounded the Yasukuni Shrine.  When they saw my "People's Daily" sign, they gave me nasty and wary looks ... at the time, the Japanese rightwing elements were passing out small Japanese flags to the pedestrians.  When they came to me, I declined.  They look at me with hatred in their eyes ... Although the reporter did not do anything at the scene and maintained silence, I know that he used his little act to tell the Japanese: I'm Chinese, I'm a Chinese reporter, I'm not afraid of you!  This reporter is a good model and I admire him!

 Now that this has become a national cause célèbre, what does the female reporter have to say?  This is the interview with Youth Weekly (via Tom.com).

Q: Did you know that mainland netizens are criticizing you?
A: I didn't know that.  At the time, I was only thinking about our personal safety.  Later on, I asked the editor on duty whether this section should be broadcast.  I personally felt that this would be questioned by some people, such as whether the reporter was prepared.  But the editor told me to proceed because this was personal experience and it reflected the situation at the scene.

Q: Perhaps because you said that you were an American, and that was why the netizens was especially displeased.
A: I did not have anything particular in mind when I said "United States."  At the time, the words just popped into my head.  If Korea, France or South Africa came into my head, I could be from those countries too.

Q: Some netizens accuse you of being unpatriotic.  What do you say?
A: I think I'm okay.  There is no need to regard this so seriously.  I'm a reporter out to gather news.  This is not to say that reporters do not have to be patriotic.  But a reporter must be fair and objective, without too many subjective ideas.  This has nothing to do with integrity.

Q: A netizen said: Even if you admit that you were Chinese at the time and that resulted in a fight, you would still need to exhibit integrity.
A: If I were a protestor, I would definitely say that.  But I am a reporter.

Q: All the netizens say that you are a qualified reporter, but not a qualified Chinese person.
A: That is their personal opinion and I respect that (laughs).

Q: Then let me ask you -- do you think that this issue is one about integrity?
A: Integrity?  I don't think it is related.  At that scene, you are a reporter.  Your duty is to ensure safe conditions and to complete your news assignment.  If you were arrested for this or get into other kinds of danger, then there will be another group of people who accuse you of being unfair as a reporter because you exhibited your political position when you gathered the news.  This is the proper attitude that we were trained to assume when we gather news.  Right, if the person that I encountered was Junichiro Koizumi, I could have made a solemn declaration.  But the man was just an ordinary Japanese citizen, and there was no need for me to get into a conflict with him.