Subject: FLOTUS Pool Report #4
By Stuart Leavenworth
Beijing Bureau Chief
Below are excerpts of a telephone interview with Wu Qing, an English professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, who was one of eight members of a roundtable hosted by Michelle Obama on Sunday. The interview was conducted by yours truly and Didi Tang of the Associated Press at roughly 4:45 pm as we were traveling back from the Great Wall in a motorcade, passing through mountains.
As noted in Pool Report #1, the pool and other media were not allowed to listen in on the morning roundtable, but we requested an interview with one of those participating, and the White House arranged for us to talk to Professor Wu.
Wu is an outspoken critic of education in China. Her mother was a well-known Chinese writer loyal to the revolution.
Q: What did you think of the roundtable today?
“Well, I thought the discussion was good, but unfortunately it was a little too short.” It lasted just over an hour.
“I do think Michelle Obama knows a lot about education…. She thinks we need to change some of the things in education. We shouldn’t just study for exams. Then another thing is how we provide quality education for every single child, not just those coming from higher economic status families.”
“We didn’t have enough time. That is too bad.”
Q: What else did you talk about?
“We talked about education for physically challenged people, and children in the minority areas.” It says in our constitution that we should provide (teaching) in two languages, Han and a local language.
“China is not rule of law, it is rule of man. That is why it is hard for people to fight for their rights, so they can enjoy what is written in the constitution.”
In ethnic areas, there are often not enough schools. “Some of these children have to walk seven hours every day (to get to school). That means we have many more young illiterates. It is a problem, but we didn’t have time to talk about it.”
“The First Lady said in the future we should use more internet, and make it more affordable. So people in distant areas could enjoy good teachers.”
Q: We heard that the Chinese college entrance exam came up?
“The first lady said exams should not be the only criteria in which to judge a person. In China, students are only studying for exams.”
Q. Were you aware that Ms. Obama made a speech yesterday at Peking University in which she called for more free expression and a more open internet?
“I’m sorry, didn’t come back to Beijing until early this morning. But I am all for it. In the constitution, article 35, it says we have freedom of speech, but in reality, no. Some of my friends have been arrested and put in jail.”
“I think it is important, of course…”
And then the call broke up, possibly because we were passing through mountains.
That’s a wrap, or lid, or whatever. Have a good night.
Stuart Leavenworth, 李温
Beijing Bureau Chief, McClatchy Newspapers
8-143, Qijiayuan Diplomatic Compound