Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Li Datong, China

Journalist, Editor * 1952
‘Bingdian’ Gushi [The Story of ‘Freezing Point’]

“As a professional journalist, I am completely incapable of understanding or accepting the suspension of ‘Freezing Point’ … To those who made this decision, what do the readers count for? What does the prestige of a large mainstream newspaper count for? What do the laws of the country and the party constitution count for? What does the reform and the opening up of China count for? They see this public instrument as their own property, thinking they can dispose of it as they please.”

Li Datong was born in Sichuan, China and moved to Beijing with his parents. During the Cultural Revolution he was sent to Inner Mongolia, where he worked as a herder for ten years. When he returned to Beijing in 1979 he began to work for the China Youth Daily. His career was cut short in 1989. After leading a conversation between more than 1,000 reporters and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and taking part in the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, he was banned from working as a journalist for five years.

In 1995, during a period of relative economic transformation and liberalisation he was reinstated and launched the pioneering Bingdian (Freezing Point), a weekly supplement in the China Youth Daily. With its courageous, realistic and lively reportages on every realm of contemporary Chinese society the paper quickly became one of the best and most popular publications in the country. His critical articles frequently landed him in trouble with the Communist Party censors before Freezing Point was closed down in January 2006 and he was once again dismissed.  He reacted to his sacking by writing a scathing public letter of protest which was posted across the Internet before being taken down later the same day. The case gained significant international media attention.

His book The Story of ‘Freezing Point’ (2005) deals with his clashes with the authorities and describes the paper’s attempt to transform the Chinese media. It is a study of Chinese society under the magnifying glass. His most recent work is Using News to Influence Today (2006).

Li Datong lives in Beijing.

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"“Eyewitnessing” is the linchpin of literary reportage."Nedim Gürsel (jury member 2003 & 2006)