Thursday, 29 November 2012

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng misrepresented by CNA

An article by the Catholic News Agency on Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng didn't 'scan' very well with me, so I decided to read the GQ article they were referencing to see if their story accurately reflected the sentiment of the original. There were - as is so very often the case with religiously motivated news sites - a couple of worrying journalistic traits that I would like to point out. 

In the opening paragraph, it was pointed out that;
A secular men's magazine has praised Chinese anti-abortion advocate Chen Guangcheng in its December 2012 issue, placing him on the list of “Man of the Year.”
Chen was not listed as "Man of the Year", but was one of many "Men of the Year". Their headline (GQ magazine names pro-life activist 'Rebel of the Year') was a more accurate description of the honour bestowed upon him. Reassuringly, CNA does note further into the article:
Chen is a self-educated human rights attorney who spoke out against China's one-child policy and the coerced abortions and sterilizations that are often used to enforce it.
This 'Rebel' title was awarded not - as CNA would have us believe - for his advocacy of a pro-life or anti-abortion position, but for his stated position of human rights and social justice. Indeed, it is not clear whether or not Chen is pro-life or anti-abortion at all; he states (to the effect) that he was brought up in no particular religion, but cultural references to Buddhism were practical guidelines for his position. All the evidence points to the fact that he is against forced/coerced abortion and sterilization. The two are not mutually exclusive. Of course, it may well be the case that Chen is, in fact, pro-life and anti-abortion, but having never personally heard him make such a claim, CNA is at best being disingenuous and at worst lying outright. 

In the penultimate paragraph CNA states;
Chen told GQ that his work opposing China’s one-child policy is not only a fight to protect the “rights of the unborn children” or of women, but of all people.
However, the use of the quoted "rights of the unborn children" is nowhere to be seen in the three-page GQ article, and any allusion to journalistic integrity has been thoroughly shunned. But there is more.

Interestingly, should any of CNA's readership care to read the original article, there is a quote that didn't make it in to their final draft. From GQ;

I had read Daniel C. Chung's article in The New York Times after my arrival in the United States, where he says that I should be careful about letting people exploit me to represent their interests. I appreciate his opinion, but I already have my own thoughts on this. If any person, organization, party—whatever—works to promote human rights and social justice, I will cooperate with them. Don't call that exploitation. Because exploitation would be for individual benefit.
Indeed, the very exploitation Chung had envisaged has begun to take shape in the CNA's article. It is clear to all but the most conservative Catholic that the Church does not have the best record on human rights and social justice, yet they are happy enough to co-opt this brave man to represent their own interests.

If in general you feel like you can't accomplish anything because someone tells you to do something, then what will you ever do?
It doesn't sound to this observer like Chen is the type of person that has much respect for authority, and if he has the cajones to stand up to the Chinese government, it is unlikely he will have much respect for the authority of the Roman Catholic Church's positions on human rights and social justice. But CNA is never one to let misrepresentation cloud the 'truth' of their own agenda.

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