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Beijing Confidential, 2007

A short video made me to recall my reaction after reading of a book: shock and disgusted.


Beijing Confidential: A Tale of Comrades Lost and Found (2007) by Jan Wong (1952-), a Canadian journalist.

At the time, I was reading China: Alive in the Bitter Sea (1982) by Fox Butterfield (1939-), which is a great book. So I looked him up, … there I found he had an assistant Jan Wong while he was NYT bureau chief in Beijing.

A restaurant owner’s daughter born in Montreal, Wong was one of the only two foreign students that were admitted into Beijing University in early 1970s, where/when one of her classmates, Yin asked for her advice to leave China. She reported Yin to school. When she returned to Beijing to work for news media, she tried to find Yin and to apologize. This is the gist of her 2007 book Beijing Confidential: A Tale of Comrades Lost and Found.

I was appalled after reading her book.

  1. Her action could easily cost Yin’s life during that ten years.
  2. Yet, she profited from that story by writing about it later on, with false pretense
  3. The plot she used is so childish: she employed private detective to locate Yin.

Anyone with faint knowledge of China knows how easy it is to find someone – within a few seconds, especially within Beijing University’s small circle.  An example: I wanted to find a colleague of my mother in 2010. After half a century, all I had were his name, work unit, and approximate year of birth. I walked into a police station and voila, within five seconds, the policeman turned up three names on his computer screen, and one of them was him. See how easy it is?!? You don’t need detective. BUT without detective, Wong won’t have a story to tell. She studied, and worked in Beijing for extended period, either she is a fool, or she thinks her readers are fools – on this point, for the western audience who has little idea how China functions, her story could sell… which it did.

I’ve gone through the ten years Cultural Revolution and knew how terrible it was and how many innocent people had suffered and lost their life.

‘Report’ is a bottom line that one shouldn’t cross.

Back to Wong: she worked in the media as reporter; got her master’s degree from Columbia. Her last gag was with The Globe and Mail. Then … she did it again in 2006, after the Dawson College shooting in Montreal. She claimed alienation brought about by “the decades-long linguistic struggle” … The Canadians went for her throat. Long story short, she was fired. She became depressed and sued, and settled for an undisclosed amount. Then she did it again. She wrote about it in her book Out of the Blue. The newspaper sued her for violating their a confidentiality agreement, and won $209,000 back plus $15,000 legal fee. Wong countersued and ultimately lost.

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