Five full days after my post on Ai Weiwei and the Global Times was published, I received an email from someone relatively high up at the paper telling me that my description of the meeting with Mr. Hu and the staff as depicted in the post was categorically untrue. I’m putting this post up because I want the newspaper’s response to be on the record.
I can say definitively that the lower portion of the post, in which I describe my conversation with a GT editor, is true because I was there having the conversation. I cannot say definitively that the episode involving Mr. Hu is true, as I wasn’t there, obviously. But I can say that I heard about it from sources I trust like brothers/sisters. I was told that throughout the day, after the meeting, the office was buzzing about Mr. Hu’s announcement.
That said, it is still hearsay. A former journalist, I used trusted sources and thought long and hard about putting up the post to begin with. I wasn’t there. Maybe the meeting was perceived differently by different attendees. Maybe the story I heard was exaggerated, or maybe it was totally accurate. I definitely believe that the story, or at least the gist of it, is true, but I also have to offer the other side of the story.
In spite of my frustrations with the direction the Global Times has taken, underscored by the recent Ai Weiwei editorials, I still have great respect for many who work there, and good memories of our working together. The higher-level person who contacted me and insisted the story is false is one of those people I deeply respect.
So there’s both sides. I wanted to put it all on the table and let readers know how the paper responded.
As I said, it was five full days before the paper contacted me. The entry was translated into Chinese the very day it posted and got a fair amount of distribution. If it were categorically false I wish they had contacted me on day one, when they first read it.
Apologies for a long and possibly ambiguous post. I hope it’s clear why I felt I had to write it.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.