Fears that the Chinese sources outed in WikiLeaks might be viewed and treated as spies appear to be unfounded.
Being outed as a “source” for American diplomats is not such a big deal after all, perhaps, even in China.
Two weeks after WikiLeaks posted unredacted versions of a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables, revealing the names of American embassies’ local contacts around the world, there are no signs of repercussions for Chinese sources, according to people who have themselves been “outed.”
“Nothing has happened to me, yet, and I have not heard of anyone else getting into trouble,” says Wang Zhenyu, a Beijing lawyer who says he has often met US diplomats to discuss the progress of legal reform in China and whose name was meant to have been “strictly protected” according to a cable that quotes him.
“I don’t think I’ll have any problem from the government, though some ordinary people do not understand," adds Wang Xiaodong, an outspoken nationalist ideologue with a large following on the Web, who also shared his insights with American diplomats, according to the leaked cables.
Heated debate on Chinese social networking sites and microblogs has thrown up accusations of treachery against one prominent and popular intellectual, Yu Jianrong, whose presence in WikiLeaks has been used by a rival to discredit him.
Professor Yu, well known for his defense of peasant farmers against rapacious local government efforts to seize their land, explained to a US diplomat how widespread rural conflicts are in China, according to a 2009 cable.
On his blog this week, Yu defended himself, saying he had been authorized to discuss rural development issues with American officials, and that his meeting had been “an ordinary foreign affairs activity.”
“This is the age of globalization. It is very common for people to communicate with foreigners,” insists Mr. Wang, the lawyer. My conversations were honest and I’ve got nothing to hide,” he adds.