Was The CCTV Reporter A Police Informant?
(yWeekend) The CCTV Reporter Who Persuade A Fugitive To Surrender Was Accused Of Betrayal Of Confidence. By Chen Wanying. January 4, 2007.
When faced with a suspected criminal on the loose who wanted to talk, should the listener call the police? Is there a bottom line with respect to "trust"? Is there a common guideline for these situations that involve criminals?
On December 20, 2006, CCTV program <Moral Obersvations> reporter Wang Donghong spent three days to persuade the suspected criminal Jiang Zhendong who had been on the loose successfully for two-and-a-half years to surrender to the police.
On December 26, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcch Xu Youyu wrote an opinion piece in Southern Metropolis Daily in which he denounced the act as "betrayal."
Wang Donghong felt very wronged because she thought that she had achieved the perfect blend of law and morality. Meanwhile, the police are upset because they thought that Xu Youyu was spreading negative ideas. Xu Youyu told our reporter that he had been very kind in his essay.
During our reporter's work, the word "trust" was repeated again and again by all of the principals.
From the time when Jiang Zhendong called for the first time at 8pm on December 18 to when he turned himself in to the police at noon on December 20, the thirty-year-old female reporter Wang Donghong spent 40 hours in calmness and tension.
"I was calm because he trusted me a great deal. I was tense because I was afraid that he wouldn't trust me," said Wang Donghong.
In the first telephone call at 8pm on December 18, the man was vague and evasive. Finally, he said that "when I see a police car or hear a police siren, I get very afraid." Wang Donghong determined that the man may have been involved in a crime.
"I asked him directly whether he had been involved in a crime. He quicky said 'Yes'," said Wang Donghong. "Perhaps he subconsciously knew that he wanted to admit his mistake."
The man did not disclose any more information. Wamg Donghong was worried that the telephone call may stop. So she asked the man to leave a telephone number, but the man did not do that. So she gave her mobile telephone number to the man instead. Shortly afterwards, Wang Donghong received a call on her mobile telephone coming from the man on his mobile telephone.
The next morning, Jiang Zhendong called after Wang Donghong arrived at the office.
"He said that he had decided to surrender. He said: 'Remember this. My name is Jiang Zhendong. I am from Funing county, Qinhuangdao city. I committed a crime in Tangshan ..." He asked me to contact the police and ask about the status of his case ... During the time that Wang Donghong took the telephone call, the rest of the office staff kept silent.
"He thought that his case was very serious. If he went to the police himself, he may not be able to communicate his intent. Therefore he asked me to accompany him when he turned himself in. We agreed to meet on December 20 in Beijing," said Wang Donghong.
Wang Donghong then contacted the Tangshan police, but she did not reach Tangshan city Guye district public security bureau legal system department director Xiao Yuansheng until that afternoon. After confirming the facts of the case, the police promised to send police officers to Beijing.
At just past 4pm, Jiang Zhendong called Wang Donghong again and said that he wanted to discuss his surrender with his family.
"At the time, my heart sank. If he went back to see his family, he may decide to postpone his surrender until after the Chinese New Year. What happens then? I had a personal motive because I wanted to get married on New Year's Day and I didn't want this matter to drag on." Wang Donghong said. So she told Jiang again on the phone that if he let his family know but end up not surrendering, then his family will become part of the case. But Jiang did not provide a definitive answer. There was more no telephone call that night.
Wang Donghong could not sleep all night.
At 730am on December 20, Wang Donghong arrived at the office and immediately received a call from Jiang. He said that he was in Sihui (Beijinjg) and wanted to arrange to meet.
"At the time, I was ecstatic! I told him to go to the Media Building. At the time, the Tangshan police was already in East Fourth Ring in the same area. I was very nervous, because I was afraid that the presence of the police car would scare Jiang Zhendong off. So I asked the police officers to get out of the police car and come over in a taxi."
When Wang Donghong and her camera crew arrived at the Media Building, she was surprised to find that apart from Jiang, there were five other relatives including his mother and uncle.
"When I saw so many family members, I was relieved. On the day before, I had told him that if he fails to surrender after meeting his family, they would be involved in the case. He heard me." Wang Donghong said.
Jiang Zhendong saw the camera, but he showed no inclination to avoid it. The filming went smoothly. So Wang Donghong was more confident.
"I said, 'You came here early. Have you had breakfast?' I didn't feel as if I came here to persuade a fugitive to surrender. Instead, I was talking to an old friend that I hadn't seen in years," said Wang Donghong.
"Actually, he did not trust us from the very beginning. He later said that he thought when he called Wang Donghong, the police would arrest him in Tianjin as soon as he put down the telephone. But that did not happen." The producer for <Moral Observations> said.
According to the previous plan, Wang Donghong would bring Jiang Zhendong and his family to the program unit's conference room on the 14th floor in order to talk and film.
By this time, the Tangshan police had arrived already at the building and were brought to the 15th floor. "Ultimately, Jiang Zhendong was not especially clear about surrendering. On the other hand, we cannot let a known wanted criminal just walk right out. Therefore, we still needed to notify the police. As soon as the police are involved, everything has to follow the judicial process. Therefore the police gave Jiang Zhendong a lot of time to think about what he wanted to do," said producer Fu Liaojun.
In the office, Jiang Zhendong had a mood swing. He squatted down in the corner and began to smoke many cigarettes. Then he requested to use the restroom. Fu Liaojun accompanied him. Jiang tolf Fu that he felt that his crime had been serious and therefore he was afraid. "I said two things. First, you are still young and you should get this resolved as soon as possible; secondly, if you turn yourself in, you will be treated leniently. When he heard that, he calmed down emotionally." Fu Liaojun said.
"Since he reached out to us, we were definitely concerned about what happened to him after he walked out of that conference room. The police said that if he did not surrender, he would get more than 10 years in jail. So we had only one thought in that we wanted him to calm down and decide to surrender, and then the police will show up after that." Wang Donghong said.
At noon, the program unit ordered box lunches. "Jiang Zhendong was specially attentive and ate with large bites. His mother told him to eat more. Obviously, this was the first time that he ate with his family over the two-and-a-half years as a fugitive." At that time, Jiang Zhendong said that he has decided to turn himself in. Wang Donghong said that she will contact the Tangshan police.
At that moment, Jiang Zhendong's mother took a peek outside the door and saw the police officers. "She slumped down on the floor, shaking and crying. We comforted her while we asked Jiang, 'Do you want to surrender now? The police are outside.' But we did not let the police enter immediately." Wang Donghong said.
After Jiang Zhendong's mother calmed down, the program unit informed the police to identify the person. "We had mixed feelings!" Wang Donghong recalled Jiang Zhendong's expression at that moment and said: "He expected that but he also did not expect it. He was very calm, and he left with the police."
Jiang Zhendong then did two things that reassured Wang Donghong: "Before getting into the police car, he gave the dozens of RMB left on his person to his mother. Then he took off his jacket for his father. I was particularly touched. He was making preparations before heading off to jail. He was psychologically prepared." Wang Donghong said.
Since Wang Donghong was a witness to the fact that Jiang Zhendong had turned himself in, she went along to Tangshan to get her statement to be taken down. She and Jiang Zhendong sat facing each other in the police car.
"Along the way, we just chatted on private matters. The road was bumpy. I said, 'If you are tired, you can lean over and take a nap.' So he leaned on the seat back and slept. After a while, I fell asleep too. In truth, we only met each other less than 12 hours ago. The fact that we can fall asleep shows that we trust each other a lot. I went with him in order to get my statement taken but there was also another important reason. I did not want to abandon him immediately after he turned himself in. I wanted to give him a mental transitional period, so that he can go into rehabilitation smoothly."
After two-and-a-half years as a fugitive, Jiang Zhendong called his family for the first time on the night of December 19.
Since Jiang Zhendong is under criminal detention right now, he could not be interviewed. Our reporter contacted Jiang Zhendong's uncle. In the eyes of the accompanying family members, the reporter was the most trustworthy person. They trusted the reporter unreservedly. Here is the uncle's statement.
On that night, my sister called me to say that Jiang Zhendong just called to say that he was in Tianjin and he had arranged with the CCTV reporter to turn himself in.
Oh, I was so happy. Really. You tell me. He had been out there for the whole time. We did not know if he was dead or alive. He made a mistake. He could not escape jail time. He was better off turning himself in. At least, we can visit him in jail.
Six months ago, I and my sister (note: the mother of Jiang Zhendong) went to the police and we said that if Jiang showed up, we would lie if we have to in order get him to surrender.
On that night, I drove my sister's family in my car and we went from Qinhuangdao to Beijing.
When I left Tangshan, I gave him 300 RMB. But several days ago, he called from the detention center and asked for another 1,000 RMB. I wired the money to an account. We don't know if the money will reach the hands of Jiang Zhendong.
My thinking is that it will do as long as it is fair. We are just afraid that people will bully us. In Qinhuangdao, we can find people that we know. But we don't know what to do now. But I felt that the reporters are powerful. I saw that the police seemed to be very deferential towards the reporters.
Were we deceived by the reporter? No. Before we left, we knew that Jiang Zhendong was going to turn himself in. Donghong is very nice. She bought a bag filled of daily necessities for Jiang Zhendong.
In his critical essay, Xu Youyu mentioned that he made "logical inferences" from the news reports. Our reporter supplied certain details not previously reported such as "Jiang Zhendong requested Wang Donghong to contact the police on his behalf" and son. But Xu Youyu insited that the <Moral Observations> reporter leaked a secret and destroyed the trust of fugitives in society. The following is an interview with Xu Youyu.
Q: When the reporter realizes that she is facing a fugitive, should she inform the police?
A: Please may attention -- the reporter did not detect the fugitive. Rather, the fugitive told the reporter. When a person reveals his greatest secret to me, I ought to be very, very moved and treasure this "trust." Even if I am later found guilty of complicity, I must treasure it. Why did the New York Times reporter refuse to reveal the identity of her informant to the Defense Department and ended up being arrested? It is for the same reason.
Q: But that was a whistleblower who provided a news tip. This is a suspected criminal. Are they the same?
A: In my opinion piece, I wrote about that. If Jiang Zhendong were a murderer, I would support the reporter's action. But he was just an economic criminal. Was it so urgent to tell the police? I believe that one ought to consider the degree of harm posed to society.
Q: What do you think the reporter should have done?
A: She should not tell her supervisor, and she should definitely not tell the police. I believe that she ought to find some personal friends who can give her advice. At the very least, she ought to feel that it was painful and immoral to inform her supervisor and the police.
Q: But this reporter received a call to the program unit during office hours. It was not a personal telephone call. Should she inform her supervisor and the police?
A: (brief silent pause) I am going to insist on my viewpoint. Even if she was at work, she is not a machine spare part. She is human above all, and so she ought to heed the call of morality. Perhaps my viewpoint is extreme. But I am worried that they made sure that many figutives who might have wanted to talk will choose to continue to remain in flight because they are afraid of being turned in.
Q: Do you think there ought to be a socially recognized rule for this type of situation? For example, if the call was about a crime, then the listener must inform the police? If this can become a Miranda right ("You have the right to remain silent") rule, then there will be fewer concerns?
A: What you say is one way. But I don't think that it is necessary. Just I said at the start, shouldn't the reporter have a rule in her head? There is one, and this is the long-existing "culture of informing" in China. That is wrong. I feel that one can count on life experience and basic moral knowledge to make the right choice. That would be to value the trust of the other and maintain confidentiality.
Q: The <Moral Observations> reporter said that she believes that the law is the bottom line for morality, whereas your hypothetical "unlimited persuasion without informing the police" is too idealistic. Do you think that you are idealistic?
A: First of all, we cannot conclusively say where the bottom line is. The problems of law and morality is still unresolved in law and philosophy because they involve so many complex issues. In the final analysis, the Chinese people do not care to accept responsibility. They generally feel that if they inform their organization, then the organization agrees with whatever the outcome is. But you do not realize that once you report the matter, the consequences are beyond your control.
Concerning Xu Youye's viewpoints, Guye district public security bureau legal system department director Xiao Yuansheng was very angry. "I am annoyed most of all by these so-called experts. They always want to come up with some strange ideas in order to draw attention!" Xiao Yuansheng said.
Xiao Yuansheng repeatedly brought up the fact that the case of Jiang Zhengdong involved a huge amount of money. He was a criminal suspect who was wanted on the Internet, and not an optional arrestee.
"I don't care about any philosophy or law. I am just doing my job, and I have simple likes and dislikes. I only know that if you see a wanted criminal suspect, you should call the police! This CCTV reporter could have ignored the whole thing. If another person took the telephone call from Jiang Zhengdong, he may not have told the police and he might have just said, 'We recommend that you turn yourself in with the local police' and then Jiang Zhengdong would continue to be a fugitive." Xiao Yuansheng said.
Xiao Yuansheng refused to get on the Internet to read Xu Youyu's essay. He felt that the doubt was totally unreasonable. "I have to question what his position is. Who is supposed to maintain social order? Is that a very negative position? According to his view, if you see someone committing a crime on the street (such as theft), you should not tell the police? I believe that this expert would stand aside and watch, and he would also insist that others stand aside and watch as well. This is so digusting." Xiao Yuansheng said.
Concerning why Jiang Zhendong chose to speak to the media instead of surrendering to the police, Xiao Yuansheng said that it was understandable.
"Based upon our experience, what is the greatest concern of a fugitive criminal? It is about the law. He must have watched these types of television programs about the legal system and he naturally thinks that this reporter is someone who can help him. As for the police, they are obvously right on the other side and they could not be more afraid of them. When people turn themselves in, they are usually accompanied by their families or friends. They rarely show up by themselves."
"At the time, Wang Donghong and them were concerned that the media may be dragged into the trial. I said that it won't. They brought Jiang Zhendong in to surrender. This was no different from Jiang Zhendong's uncle bringing him in." Xiao Yuansheng said.