This is from the website of the US National Endowment for Democracy. In particular, from the NED’s 2010 report, listing grants made that year:
China Free Press $220,000
To provide support and a forum for human rights defenders to document and expose China’s human rights situation in a timely manner, and to serve as a resource for Chinese websites and bloggers so as to expand the space for free expression of political and social viewpoints in China. China Free Press will host banned and censored Chinese prodemocracy websites that provide a platform for discussion and debate on current events and important social, political and economic questions facing China. China Free Press will also maintain a dedicated website as a forum for reports, commentary, and appeals by citizens concerning civil rights.
According to its wiki, the China Free Press has received a total of just over half a million dollars from the NED over the past ten years.
It is best known for publishing the dissident website Boxun, which aggregates news and views from individuals within China.
As such, it arguably provides a valuable unofficial perspective on events in China to the outside world, (or would do if bothered updating it’s English language version).
However, it also has a reputation for publishing absolutely anything that reads as if it is damaging to Beijing, and as such is probably a little more notorious than famous. It is not, to say the least, considered a generally reliable source.
That changed somewhat as the Bo Xilai scandal unfolded, when Boxun began printing reports that were later confirmed by quasi-official sources close to the investigation into Wang Lijun, Chongqing’s ex top cop and BXL’s former right hand man.
It seems reasonable to assume that the site had been passed information that the US consulate in Chengdu got when it debriefed Wang during his stay there.
And then in the middle of all that, Boxun decided to publish this:
Xu Ming: Shared several dozen woman with Bo Xilai, including famous actress Zhang XX, and television host Ni X.
April 26, 2012 Boxun: According to reliable information, Xu Ming has confessed during interrogation that he dispatched more than 100 women to Bo Xilai, including several dozen that they both slept with. Most dramatically, the famous movie star Zhang XX is one of those women.
Xu Ming is a businessman closely associated with Bo, and himself under investigation.
Zhang XX is Zhang Ziyi, the star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and currently the most popular actress in China.
Boxun went on to allege that she had made roughly £70 million as the mistress of Xu, Bo and other business and political figures, and that she had been banned from leaving China while the investigation into Bo was underway.
These allegations were taken and amplified via Next Media Group through its bestselling stable of Hong Kong newspapers and magazines.
Next is also behind those Taiwanese animations I used to post here.
Ms Zhang has responded robustly:
Film star Zhang Ziyi formally filed defamation lawsuits in Hong Kong and the United States yesterday against media which reported last month that she had sex with disgraced former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai for money.
In Hong Kong, Zhang has hired law firm Haldanes and senior counsel Jason Pow, renowned for handling defamation cases, for her suits against Apple Daily and Next Magazine, according to China News Service and her spokesman’s Sina microblog. She is also suing a US-based Chinese language news portal, which the China News Service report said was the source of the allegations.
Boxun is the ‘US-based China news portal’.
In other words, China’s best known film star is suing a website funded by the NED as a ‘platform for debate on current events and important social and political questions in China’ for accusing her of being a high class prostitute.
In the process, Next, Hong Kong’s most important pro-democracy media group, stands to lose an astronomical amount in damages.
So, was this what the NED was paying for? Given the history of black propaganda I mean the question seriously.
Finally, here’s what Boxun has to say:
Boxun respects Ms. Zhang Ziyi herself as well as her accomplishments in the film industry. But as an electronic media based in America, Boxun strives to provide fair contents about China and the world to its readers. The reporting on Ms. Zhang Ziyi in Boxun did not contain any insulting language. Boxun merely published information that it believed to be accurate. That information had come from anonymous sources, which is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America and other related laws. Boxun is obliged to keep the identities of those sources confidential. For this reason, Boxun will not delete any of the relevant reports, it will not apologize, it will not disclose the sources of the information and it will not pay any compensation.