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China's journalist in Mexico remembered

By Xu Lin (China Daily)

10:25, June 27, 2013

Wu Yongheng, director of the Latin America office of China Today magazine in Mexico City, helped deliver magazines on the streets. Wu passed away from a sudden illness on March 18. (China Daily)

China Today magazine's Latin America office director Wu Yongheng was a stickler for punctuality. So it was unusual when the 68-year-old did not arrive on time to a Mexican TV station for a scheduled interview on March 18.

Sadly, when Wu's colleague went to his apartment, he found the much-loved journalist had passed away from a sudden illness.

Wu's death shocked Mexico City and China. He was famous for his intelligence, charisma and dedication to his work in Mexico's local Chinese media and political circles.

The offices of Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and former president Luis Echeverria Alvarez both sent wreaths to his funeral. Wu's friends and colleagues from home and abroad expressed their grief.

"His sudden death is a great loss to me and my friends. Wu has already built a bridge of thought between China and Mexico, and many Chinese and Mexicans can communicate with each other via that bridge," Wu's friend Helios Farrell, former vice-president of International Table Tennis Federation, wrote in an article paying tribute to Wu.

After learning Spanish in Cuba at age 19, Wu started his journalism career in 1970, when he began work for the Xinhua News Agency. He held several positions at the agency, including head of the Latin America Regional Office and vice-director of International News Department. He worked as chief reporter in Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.

In December 2004, he was hired to head the office of China Today magazine. Founded by Soong Ching-Ling in 1952, China Today (formerly China Reconstructs) is a magazine published in eight languages in many countries, to introduce all aspects of China. As part of the China International Publishing Group, it's published in Spanish as China Hoy in Mexico City.

Wu made friends with many locals and promoted the magazine to many Latin American countries, including Panama and Costa Rica. The magazine is now available in all 32 states of Mexico, 58 airports, airlines, newspaper stands and supermarkets.

"He was such a workaholic. He was very passionate and very strict with himself," says Li Wuzhou, chief editor of China Hoy, who worked with Wu in Mexico in 2008.

Wu often worked long hours and took on many roles himself as the office only had six staff.

In the first few years of the magazine, Wu was not only the head of the publication, but also the delivery man. He would drive to the airport and move more than 1,000 magazines to a trolley for distribution.

He would often go to Mexican universities to deliver speeches about China and promote the magazine. He would first take off his suit and tie, and push a trolley distributing China Hoy. When he was ready to deliver the lecture, he would put his suit and tie back on and become a scholar again.

Although Wu could speak several different Spanish dialects, he never ceased to learn. On the wall of his bedroom were dozens of post-it-notes of Spanish buzzwords and details of Mexican political issues.

He considered China Hoy a platform to communicate with China. He sought every opportunity to bridge the gap between the two countries and promote China.

In 1910, Chinese in Mexico raised money to build a Chinese Clock in Bucareli Avenue to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mexican Independence. But the clock tower grew shabby with age.

Wu called for the repair of the clock ahead of Mexico's 200th anniversary. Wu insisted on the repair work although some people thought it was not the responsibility of the magazine. He often went to the site to keep abreast of the pace of the reconstruction.

"The local government and people are very happy about the new Chinese Clock. It's an opportunity to strengthen the friendship between Mexican and Chinese," says Hu Baomin, president of China Today.

Most flights from China to Mexico City arrive at midnight, but Wu always insisted on picking up colleagues, be they leaders or interns. If he was free on the weekends, he would take the guests to visit scenic spots.

"Wu's spirit and professionalism deserves all our respect and we should learn from him. As a senior journalist, he dedicated his life to promoting our country and spreading China's voice abroad," says Tang Shubiao, editor-in-chief of China Today.

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