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Hong Kong bookseller disappearances

An exchange between Gui Minhai’s daughter and the Post’s Editor-in-Chief

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 12:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 9:36pm

Dear Tammy (if I may), 

Although we’ve not spoken, I’m sure you know who I am. To introduce myself to everyone else, my name is Angela, and I’m the daughter of Gui Minhai – the man who was kidnapped by China and then paraded in Chinese media three times. 

Your predecessor Wang Xiangwei recently stated that the “interview” with Gui could have been handled better. Not exactly words of regret, but at least an acknowledgement that what the Post did was problematic. 

This week I read the report on China’s use of forced televised confessions. I imagine the victim testimonials constitute grim reading for most. To me, it’s like reading about my own father. I should be angry with you, and perhaps I am, but I know that we have one thing in common – we both make mistakes. I hope we share another very human quality – that we learn from those mistakes and at least try to avoid repeating them. 

Reading the report, do you feel any regret? I don’t know if the publicity department at the Communist Party of China called or emailed you, or contacted someone else; but, in the end, as editor in-chief, you decided it was a good idea to send a journalist to cover the “interview”. 

The “interview” – a scripted point-by-point rebuttal of the criticism against China’s treatment of my father – might as well have been a statement from the Foreign Ministry. You know this of course. Yet, after dispatched reporter Phila Siu returned, you still decided to run the story, knowing these could not possibly be my father’s own words. Why? 

With this report, the torture and threats against loved ones employed in forcing suspects to “confess” have now been laid bare. Does this change anything for you? More than anything, if a similar situation arises, will you make a different decision? 

Over these past 2½ years, I have slowly come to accept the very real possibility that I may not see my father ever again. But I keep wondering how people in positions like yourself relate to what has happened. 

I very much hope you will take the time to answer this. Your answer could help me understand, and perhaps, if I could be given any hope that this won’t happen to others, it might help in coming to terms with the loss of my father. 

Angela Gui, Cambridge

Response from the Editor-in-Chief

Dear Angela,

Thank you very much for your thoughtful letter. I have come to know you through our news coverage of your father and the four other booksellers, whose cases we have been reporting on since they went missing in 2015 and turned up in custody in China.

While I obviously cannot imagine the anguish and anxiety you have endured throughout this ordeal, I offer my hopes that, some day, you can be reunited with your father.

With regard to your father’s case, I assure you categorically that we did not collaborate with the Chinese authorities to portray your father as speaking freely while in custody, as the report incorrectly alleges. We provided the facts and context, including a photograph showing him between two guards, and our reporter also talked to your father’s friends so as to shed more light on the circumstances. All this allowed our readers to judge for themselves whether he was under duress.

As journalists, we are often faced with difficult decisions. In this case, we were required to choose between interviewing your father in a stage-managed setting and having no access at all. We made the decision to go ahead on news merit, and stand by our professional judgment. We note that other reputable news organisations facing similar controlled circumstances in the region have also proceeded with reporting.

We treasure feedback and will continue to ensure transparency so our readers may have a better understanding of our editorial decisions, whether they agree with them or not.

I appreciate you taking time to write.

With kind regards,

Tammy Tam, Editor-in-Chief