Journalist Dong Yuyu, a veteran editor and columnist at the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Guangming Daily, is facing espionage charges in Beijing. He was a member of the 2007 class of Nieman Fellows at Harvard University.
Dong, who often met with foreign diplomats, academics and journalists in the course of his work, was detained on February 21, 2022, while having lunch with a Japanese diplomat at a hotel in Beijing. His family was notified in March 2023 that his case would be sent to trial.
Reacting to the news, Nieman Foundation curator Ann Marie Lipinski said: “Dong Yuyu is an accomplished journalist whose work as a newspaper reporter and author demonstrate a long record of pro-reform writing. His Nieman classmates knew him as objective in life and in work, and any speculation that his journalism fellowship offers evidence of espionage is ill-founded. Such claims and the opaque circumstances surrounding his detention are deeply concerning.”
“All of us can attest to Mr. Dong’s high professional standards and ethics. We exchanged frank and open views about our countries and the world situation. Our exchanges were a normal part of what is sometimes called ‘people-to-people diplomacy,’ something the Chinese government supports.
We would like the Chinese government to reconsider the harsh charges that Mr. Dong faces. Meetings with people like Mr. Dong are essential if China and the rest of the world are to have productive, open, and stable relations. Meetings with foreign diplomats and journalists, as well as fellowships abroad, should not be construed as evidence of espionage, without calling into question the entire system of normal interactions between peoples in the world.”
Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute also issued a statement calling for his freedom: “Through his work, Yuyu has helped the world have a better understanding of China and has brought back with him from Japan and the U.S. an understanding of life in those countries. He is a journalist with a great track record and these actions against him do not encourage positive perceptions of China. We urge the government to release Yuyu and drop the charges against him.”
Leading news outlets have reported on Dong’s situation and the charges he is facing, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. The Washington Post additionally published the editorial “A Chinese journalist is charged with espionage. But journalism is not spying.”