The British people should not be deprived of the right to know the real China merely because of an information gap, Madam Fu Ying, Chinese Ambassador to Britain, said Tuesday.
Speaking at "China and UK: Partners in Sustainability," a forum sponsored by the China-Britain Business Council, the ambassador said that the British people should have the right to know and to know what is right, but the fact is that the lack of knowledge about China has, to some extent, prevented them from doing so.
Recent events have made her realize that there is a huge information gap about China in Britain which "is hurting both sides," she said.
Mentioning an article she wrote for the Sunday Telegraph two days ago, Fu said that there are already 200 pages of comments about her article, among which, she was surprised to find, some show little or inaccurate knowledge about Tibet and many other issues related to China.
One of the examples, Fu said, is that many British people wrongly believe that Tibet was an independent country five decades ago and are unaware that Britain invaded Tibet, which was and is part of the Chinese territory.
Many Western people still use the term Mount Everest to refer to the highest mountain peak in Tibet and believe George Everest was the one who discovered the peak and the first person to measure it, Fu said.
She said that what they may not know is that the authorities of the Qing Dynasty in China in the early 18th century twice sent teams to measure the height of the mountain peak more than a hundred years earlier than Everest and the mountain already had the beautiful Tibetan name Qomulangma "long before Everest's grandfather was born."
When rebutting some British media reports which accused China of lacking freedom of speech, Fu said when the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference were holding their latest sessions in March this year, some 40 million people came to www.sina.com.cn, one of China's most popular websites and left over 3 million questions in response to a Call for Questions for the Premier, an appeal jointly made by the website and China Central Television.
Among these questions, some were on price rises, some on the income gap between teachers in urban China and their counterparts in the rural area, some were criticism of the government's policies and some were advice for China's development, Fu said.
How could so many people in a country without freedom of speech ask so many questions for the country's premier, Fu asked.
On some criticism by Western media that China lacks the press freedom, the ambassador retorted with such facts as that China has about 570 publishing firms which publish 230,000 kinds of books every year, 2,000 newspapers and 9,000 magazines, while www.sina.com and www.sohu.com, two of China's leading websites, issued about 10,000 pieces of news every day and Beijing residents can watch TV programs from over 70 channels, all of which prove the diversification of the media voices in China.
Fu found it strange that some Western media, instead of being interested in topics that common Chinese people care about, such as prices and stability, they lavishly focus their coverage on China's human rights, a topic they in fact have little or inaccurate knowledge about.
"The challenge for China is that while being firm against separation, we also need to learn to inform the world about us" and "must get our stories out so that people around the world can know China better," the Chinese ambassador said.
Noting China is not perfect and this is the same with all countries and governments, Fu called for abundant, right and objective information on China to be offered to the British people.
The information gap must be bridged by consistent efforts, Fu said.
"I believe in (the British) people, I believe in sensible judgment of the (British) people, I will continue to try hard to engage the media and engage in the wider public to promote the knowledge and understanding of my country," the Chinese ambassador said.