中文媒体错译 Fortune Small Business

关于中文媒体严重错误翻译,不加核实而广泛转载美国杂志Fortuen Small Business关于沈彤及其媒体软件公司VFinity的报道。
  • 错误翻译的几个重点
  • 翻译来源-多维新闻-“更正“过程中的恶行恶状
  • 香港明报, 新加坡联合早报, 美国之音 (VOA), 台湾中国时报 (Taiwan) 等转载过程中不做基本专业核实
  • 多维等媒体的错译中文全文
  • Fortune Small Business的英文原文
  •  

     

    错误翻译的几个重点

    1. 沈彤“强调,现在对他最重要的事是成功和致富”

    原文是沈彤对于89当年的学生现在强调发财致富而感慨,不是他自己的想法。
    Tong went on to muse about his generation of activists, few of whom are still confronting the Chinese government. “In our 20s we thought that democratization and ending corruption were the most important things,” he said. “Now the most important things are succeeding and becoming affluent.”
    直译:彤若有所思地(muse)谈到他那一代的活动家已经很少与政府冲突。

    上下文:此段采访的整个谈话背景是沈彤与记者多次感慨他在国内遇到的八九一代当年以生命与政府抗争,而现在很多人不问政治正义公理,一心致富。所以这次沈彤回国没有像1992年那样有民运使命,而是想观察和了解。

    原文的上下两段翻译:
    上段:当我问他是不是不问政治了,他摇头:“当然不是,”又很不耐烦地大声(snapped)说,“我不是带着使命而来。我在观察(中国的现状),【而且】我要诚实地反思(流亡后十年所从事民运)的效果。”(Tong shook his head when I asked whether he considered himself post-political. “Of course not,” he snapped. “I’m post-political only in the sense that I’m not coming back on a mission. I’m observing. [But] if I’m being honest, I have to ask if I’m making a difference.”)

    下段:了解沈彤的人同意,他不是被财富驱使的。(Those who know Tong best, however, agree that he isn’t particularly motivated by money. )

    2. 沈彤“北京推销监控软件”

    VFinity的软体平台不是过滤或监控技术,而是一个Web媒体平台,让使用VFinity平台的企业中的任何人都可以储存、管理、制作、编辑、发布、分享多媒体内容。 就如电话和电话监控的区别一样。

    沈彤即不像报道中提到的“经常往返中美两地”,更没有在中国推销产品。

    3. 沈彤“推销可以被国家安全部门用作监控公众的电脑软件”

    原文称VFinity在中国的客户包括中国政府的各个部委 (various branches of the Chinese government), 但这是记者的演绎和猜测。随后记者用以下方式诠释他的猜测:彤对于他和政府部门合约的谨慎是可以理解的,他否认VFinity向军方或国安部门直接售卖软件。但彤承认他无法控制什么人从零售商购买他的产品。

    Clients include Brandeis University, Taiwan’s National University and various branches of the Chinese government.

    Tong is understandably reticent about his government contracting work in China. For the record, he denies that VFinity sells software to the Chinese military or other state security agencies. But Tong admits that he can’t control who buys his products through local resellers.

    上下文:采访中的这一段,是记者在从北京回到美国之后,想以被中国政府监控的八九学生卖给中国政府监控软件的角度影射沈彤和VFinity。但有事实上的困难,

    1. VFinity不是监控软禁,甚至不是过滤软件。对此,记者多次采访VFinity的员工和客户而不能证实VFinity有任何监控能力,所以在文章中从没有直接说VFinity是监控软体。但他在一个采访的追问中提到,如果一个监控机构需要处理大量的影音内容,用VFinity是否有帮助。VFinity的一个北京同事回答:当然,VFinity是很强的影音标记和搜索引擎,任何影音库都可以获益;不过这就像说一个图书检索系统是文字控制的警察国家的帮凶,或是说政府电话监控要让发明电话的爱迪生承担责任一样荒唐。不过记者在最后的文章中只用了这个回答的前三分之一句。
    2. VFinity在中国事实上没有监控机构和军方的用户。记者对于政府用户的猜测一直是采访中重复的问题,但不能得到证实。后来这个问题就变得更为广泛的两个问题
      1. “VFinity在中国的用户有没有可能是政府用户?” VFinity同仁的回答:我们的现有市场是大学和文化机构。在中国国内,有预算的大学和文化机构大多是官方办的。我们的目标市场之一是广播电视,在国内全是政府所有。
      2. “VFinity的产品有没有可能接触到其他政府机构?“  VFinity同仁的回答:我们正在以开发经销商方式拓展市场。经销商有可能接触到各种客户。
    – “有逻辑可能但无事实”变成“有”;
    – “中国的大学和文化机构”变成“中国政府的各个部委”;
    – VFinity和沈彤直接的澄清变成“他否认和谨慎是可以理解的”。

    翻译来源-多维新闻“更正”过程中的恶行恶状

    VFinity市场部门在文章发表之后对直接失实的内容作出更正。更正内容如下。但多个报刊和网站已经以讹传讹。对于英文原文中,记者凭借想象的部分没有事实依据,但也没有事实错误,只是为了抢眼的标题和自己对中国的看法来剪裁事实、自说自话,违反新闻报道和分析的基本专业标准。而原译者多维的翻译与标题就有太多事实上的谬误。

    VFinity市场部门作出的更正(中英文)

    多维今天关於万视科技VFinity的头条报导严重失实而且误导大众。VFinity的软体没有中国国安和中国军方的使用者。没有中国政府用VFinity来监视民众。VFinity的软体平台不是过滤或监控技术,而是一个Web媒体平台让使用VFinity平台的企业中的任何人都可以储存、管理、制作、编辑、发布、分享多媒体内容。 多维对财富杂志文章的翻译也非常不准确。例如,财富杂志通篇没有一处指出中国国安是VFinity客户,也没有指出中国政府用VFinity来监视民众。

    The article about VFinity published in today’s Douwei News (DWNEWS.COM) is inaccurate and grossly misleading. VFinity software is not being used by the Chinese military and security for surveillance. VFinity is not surveillance and filtering software, rather it is designed to provide all users OF AN ENTERPRISE THAT LICENSED VFINITY SOFTWARE open access to digital content through a Web browser from anywhere. (chinesenewsnet.com) Further, Douwei News did not accurately translate the Fortune article profiling Shen Tong. For instance, no where in the article does Fortune charge that the Chinese National Security is using Vfinity software, nor that Chinese government is using Vfinity software to spy on its own people.” (chinesenewsnet.com)

    多维社编者按 (chinesenewsnet.com)

    多维社4日收到声称代表沈彤的来信,对多维关於沈彤的一篇报导提出意见,指”多维今天关於万视科技VFinity的头条报导严重失实而且误导大众”,事实上,有关沈彤公司软件被中国政府所用,早已有消息人士向多维社提供。有关沈彤的行为,多维社所披露的,只是所知的一小部分。 最近,财富杂志文章小企业版的文章,对沈彤公司软件的可能流向作了报导。读者可参考英文原文,作出判断。 多维社并没有”非常不准确”地翻译财富杂志文章小企业版文章的原文,来信有关所指并不是多维所为。 我们对我们所披露的内容深具信心。但是,为了让沈彤代表的意见得到表达,多维社全文发表其来信。

    注:多维和明镜(chinesenewsnet.com)在2009之前有何频主持,后易手卖给于平海。在多维错误的中译文发表之后,网民做了中英文对比,随即有多条耻笑多维翻译的评论。几天之后,多维把这篇自称从内容到翻译都“深具信心”的译文联同网民评论从网站上删除了。无论是良心发现、知耻、策略或商业考量,这个行为本身值得肯定。但多维的文章与标题已经以讹传讹被广泛转载,而更正和删除却无一家转载。多维的这种做法与中国政府在2005年之后的网路与新闻控制政策一样,积极和巧妙地引导舆论,以“翻译”和“转载”外电和其他刊物的方法,从有多种声音的自由媒体环境中,挑选中国政府定义为敏感人士的负面报道。必要时,断章取义。 “沈彤”一词是已知的中国政府网路监控的1400多个敏感词之一,在中国国内的搜索引擎上少有的沈彤新闻里,已知有新加坡联合早报“转载”香港明报(转载多维社)的“新闻 – 新闻 > 世界报刊文萃学运领袖北京推销监控软件 沈彤强调发财最重要。

    香港明报, Singapore 联合早报, 美国之音 (VOA), 中国时报 (Taiwan) 等媒体以讹传讹, “转载”的中译全文

    【18年的记忆】之 18年前的领袖北京推销监控软件 18年前的领袖北京推销监控软件 沈·彤强调发财最重要

    2007-05-05


    香港明报报道,18年前的北京学  运领袖沈·彤目前已成为美国一家软件开发公司的老板。沈·彤的公司在北京设有办公室,而他则经常往返中美两地,推销可以被国家安全部门用作监控公众的电脑 软件。沈·彤否认向军方或国安部门直接售卖软件。他并强调,现在对他最重要的事是成功和致富,“我无法控制什么人从零售商购买我的产品。”

    美国《财富》杂志小企业版日前发表名为《一个天安门造  反者成为富翁》(A Tiananmen rebel turns capitalist)的报道。指今年39岁的沈·彤于2000年在纽约经营一家软件公司万视科技(VFinity),公司的主要产品是一种供大学、电视 台使用的搜索软件。该软件就像一个图像化的Google,允许任何用户创作或编辑图象文件,然后上传至公司服务器或网上任何地方,而且能够让用户轻易地就 找到文件。

    美国创立科技公司

    报道称,沈·彤的公司在纽约、台北和北京都有办公室,客户包括台湾大学和中国政府。记者问沈·彤,如果其开发的软件直接或间接地被用作监控公众的工具, 是否违背他的道德原则。沈·彤耸耸肩说:「我从不怀疑技术既可以用在好的和坏的目的上。电脑和电话也可以被好人和坏人使用。」

    软件可作监控工具

    报道称,中国政府允许沈·彤返回北京,条件是不涉入政治活动,但他在北京的活动亦被监视。外出时经常有挂着政府车牌的私家车跟着他。沈·彤接受访问时, 对“天 安·门”一代人进行反思。他说:“在我们20多岁的时候,我们认为民主化和反腐败是最重要的事情,而现在最重要的事情,是取得成功,是致富。”

    首个离国学生领袖

    1989年,沈·彤是北京大学生物系学生,曾任学   运组织「高  自  联」常委。事件后,他逃往日本,之后转赴美国,成为第一个安全脱身的学  运领袖。沈·彤抵美后,除了继续读书,还与吾·尔-开-希共同成立「中国民~~主基金会」。到90年代后期,沈·彤把注意力从政治转到商业,2000年创 办万视科技公司,现有员工45人。

    学运领袖北京推销监控软件 沈彤强调发财最重要

    (2007-05-05)

    (联合早报网讯)明报报道,18年前的北京学运领袖沈彤目前已成为美国一家软件开发公司的老板。据美国传媒报道,沈彤的公司在北京设有 办公室,而他则经常往返中美两地,推销可以被国家安全部门用作监控公众的电脑软件。沈彤否认向中国军方或国安部门直接售卖软件。他并强调,现在对他最重要 的事是成功和致富,「我无法控制什麽人从零售商购买我的产品」。

    美国《财富》(FORTUNE)杂志小企业版日前发表名为《一个天安门造反者成为富翁》(A Tiananmen rebel turns capitalist)的报道。指今年39岁的沈彤於2000年在纽约经营一家软件公司万视科技(VFinity),公司的主要产品是一种供大学、电视台 使用的搜索软件。该软件就像一个图象化的Google(互联网搜寻器谷歌),允许任何用户创作或编辑图象文件,然後上传至公司服务器或网上任何地方,而且 能够让用户轻易地就找到文件。

    美国创立科技公司

    报道称,沈彤的公司在纽约、台北和北京都有办公室,客户 括台湾大学和中国政府。该杂志记者问沈彤,如果其开发的软件直接或间接地被用 作监控公众的工具,是否违背他的道德原则。沈彤耸耸肩膀说:「我从不怀疑技术既可以用在好的和坏的目的上。电脑和电话也可以被好人和坏人使用。」

    软件可作监控工具

    报道称,中国政府允许沈彤返回北京,条件是不涉入政治活动,但他在北京的活动亦被监视。外出时经常有挂政府车牌的私家车跟他。沈彤 接受访问时,对天安门一代民运分子进行反思。他说:「在我们20多岁的时候,我们认为民主化和反腐败是最重要的事情,而现在最重要的事情,是取得成功,是 致富。」

    首个离国学生领袖

    1989年沈彤是北京大学生物系学生,曾任学运组织「高自联」常委。六四事件後,他逃往日本,之後转赴美国,成为第一个安全脱身的学运 领袖。沈彤抵美後,除了继续读书,还与另一名被通缉的学运领袖吾尔开希共同成立「中国民主基金会」。到90年代後期,沈彤把注意力从政治转到商 业,2000年创办万视科技公司,现有员工45人。

    Muzi.com : 木子网(中文) : 夜光新闻

    沈彤–昔日的民运人士,今天变身企业家
    2007-05-04

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    一名中国学生在逃到美国以后,变身企业家回到了中国,与自己以前反对的政府做生意–他是沈彤,一位曾表现激进的民运人士,因声称潜回中国从事地下活动在美国媒体上高调一时,亦曾是台湾媒体上的丑闻主角。消息人士对多维社说,他的软件被中国政府用来监视民众。

    美国《财富》杂志小企业版(FORTUNE Small Business Magazine)最近一篇报导(A Tiananmen rebel turns capitalist),对此有较细致的披露:

    这是一名曾为北京政治异议分子的美籍华裔软件开发商;一名曾经参与领导了1989年民主运动的企业家;一位年轻的资本主义者,他现在卖的网络软件,既可以打开中国社会的大门,也可以帮助保持大门关闭。

    中国共产党仍然具有制定和执行公民生活条规的专有权力。但驱动中国惊人的经济增长是像沈彤这样无所顾忌的企业家,而不是政府。

    一旦沈彤离开他位在北京东北面的新科技办公区时,就会有一辆挂着政府车牌的黑色奥迪轿车跟着他。这次,他前往CNN的北京分社,和来到清华的网络软件研究中心作他的产品推销。

    《财 富》杂志小企业版说,现年39岁的沈彤在纽约市经营一家新兴的软件公司-“万视科技”(VFinity)。他的主要产品是一种供大学、广播电视台用的软 件,就像可以用来管理多媒体文件的浏览器和搜索引擎。就像一个图象化Google一样。该软件允许任何用户创造或者编辑图象文件,然后上载至公司服务器或 者网上任何地方,而且,能够让用户轻易的就找到它。

    沈彤指出,简单来说,这个概念就像是电视台里的网路搜寻引擎Google,它可以因为电视台数位化而所有节目内容由类比讯号转换成数位讯号后,再交由万视的软体统一管理。

    1980年代末,沈彤是一名北京大学的生物系学生,他成为当时横扫中国各城市大学的学生运动潮的一分子。

    沈 彤在他1990年的回忆录《几乎是一场革命》(Almost a Revolution)中清晰的记述了这段血腥经历:“数百人冲上大街,组成一堵围墙,但是,就当他们刚进入街中心,一阵机关枪扫射驱散了他们。中弹的人 倒到地上,一动不动。我对自己说,这些人死了。这些子弹是真的。”

    天安门事件之后的几年里,沈彤在世界各地旅行,宣传中国民主运动,与Vaclav Havel和达赖喇嘛等国际名人亲密的交换意见,同时过着罗曼蒂克的快乐生活。

    但 是,到1990年代末时,沈彤把他的注意力从政治转到商业。他于2000年创建万视科技,自那以后,在angel financing中筹资到了1,000多万美元。这间公司有45名雇员,在纽约市、台北和北京都有办公室。公司客户包括Brandeis大学、台湾国立 大学和中国政府的各种部门。

    自然而然,沈彤对他与中国政府之间的合同三缄其口。就台面记录来看,他否认万视科技向中国军方或者其他国家安全部门直接卖软件。但是,沈彤承认,他无法控制谁从零售商那里购买他的产品。

    而 且,万视科技官方网站上把监视业列为众多他们公司希望通过他们公司的看家产品万视科技2.3改变的行业之一。他们的宣传并仅仅以此而已:“每年保安摄像器 都会录制成千上万小时的录像。如何在一个地方存储这些录像,并能够方便的取出这些录像供专业保安人士使用是一大挑战。万视科技可以做到这点。”

    尽 管,你无法否认监视录像记录在执法过程中的重要作用,但是,美国的隐私权拥护组织一直对越来越普遍的摄像监视表示不满。但是,万视科技的宣传文字在一个像 中国这样的警察国家里有了更邪恶的意义。当你考虑到万视科技的创建人曾花费了10多年的时间抵抗中国共产党,而且共产党直到现在还继续跟踪他的一举一动 时,而这些轻快的语言看起来似乎完全是超现实的。

    沈彤和记者曾在电话上,和某天晚上在咖啡厅里讨论过这问题,他指出,尽管万视科技的图象平台加入了先进的面貌分辨技术,他们公司选择从其他开发商那里引进这种能力,而不是自己写这些程序。

    他说:“这是条我们不想越过的界限。”当记者问沈彤,当他直接、甚至间接的向可能把他的产品用作镇压工具的客户卖软件时,是否违背了他的道德原则时,他耸耸肩膀。他说:“我从不怀疑技术既可以用在好的和坏的目的上。电脑和电话也可以被好人和坏人使用。”

    但是,他认为万视科技最终会帮助好人,因为他赋予普通人像专家一样管理媒体的力量。他说:“一个把媒体交给任何人的系统无疑是个解放民主的物品。这是创办这家公司的起始宗旨。”

    《财 富》杂志小企业版说,如果解放中国人民确实是万视科技的企业目标,这公司在中国将面对重重困难。天安门事件18年后,中国仍然是个充斥着官僚主义的警察国 家,政府下达法令,然后用法来维护自己的利益。民众舆论受到严格的监控:近年来,无数中国记者和维权人士因为敢于触及像民主、爱滋和腐败等“敏感”话题被 关入监牢和受到骚扰。

    他说,政府当局容忍了沈彤到北京访问,条件是不涉入中国政治活动。看来沈彤是遵守这一点的。但是当我问,他是否自视为 后政治人物了。沈彤马上打断说:“当然不是。我只是没有再带着任务回来,只是在这个意义上我是后政治人物。我现在是一名观察者。不过假如我是诚实的,我必 须扪心自问,我的所作所为是不是起了变化。”

    沈彤继续对他们这一代人的民主运动活动进行反思,他们之中还在与中国政府对抗的,已经是寥寥无几了。他说:“在我们20多岁的时候,我们认为民主化和反腐败是最重要的事情,而现在最重要的事情,是取得成功,是致富。”

    有 一天晚上我在北京和他的姐姐沈清(Qing Shen,音译)一起吃饭,他姐姐40岁左右,活跃和精灵,是万视科技公司的共同创始人,曾经是北京一本精美的杂志的出版人和生活时尚的专栏作家,有过引 人注目的职业经历。在北京工人体育馆附近一家令人惬意和布满书籍的泰国风味餐馆里,记者向沈清提问说,为什么她认为她弟弟已经远离政治。

    沈 清一板一眼地回答说:“10年了,看不到什么结果,你就会厌倦了。中国还是没有多少民主。” 《财富》杂志小企业版说,那么是什么在推动沈彤前进呢?是雄心壮志吗,只能说它是部分原因。也许他不是渴望集聚个人财富,而是显然要使万视科技公司在市场 上取得成功。他也像那些最有魅力的领袖人物一样,知道如何雄心勃勃地推动一场更广泛的运动,那就是推动中国的民主或者是数字化媒体革命。但是,沈彤也相信 由用户控制的所谓web2.0媒体技术能够释放出人的潜力。

    他乐于向那些想知道有关信息的“专家分类”(taxonomy)与“民众分类”(folksonomy)之间区别的用户、记者和其他人侃侃而谈。

    杜 威十进图书分类系统(Dewey Decimal System)是一种传统的经典分类方法,目前在全球图书馆系统广泛使用,它们属于“专家分类”法,而YouTube和维基百科(Wikipedia)都 属于“民众分类”法或“草根分类”法,后者是在指,任何用户都有权去添加、组织和注释媒体的内容,无论是文字、照片还是视频,在这个意义上,它是一种用户 全权的分类方式。而万视科技公司提供的软件产品兼具这两种分类系统的长处,它既是前者又是后者,管理员可以对系统中的每个内容作出定义,而任何其他的授权 用户也都可以将自己的描述添加上系统中去。

    《财富》杂志小企业版说,是否“民众分类”解放了人呢?那要取决于用户怎么使用。目前不清楚的 是,谁会从基于这种技术的产品、例如万视科技软件中受益最多?中国政府里的神秘者,毫无疑问,这些人将使用这类软件来监控国内的人民,包括他们的自己人、 学者、维权人士和记者等,而这些人将使用这种软件来挑战政府的版本。

    走过天安门广场时,记者想到了沈彤。天安门广场实际上是一个巨大的方形 空间,南端是放置着供人瞻仰的末代专制者的毛泽东纪念堂;北面是故宫的城楼,原为帝王的宫殿,现在成旅游胜地;西边是人民大会堂,中共在那里举行核心会议 而民众通常被拒之门外。几十名大多是年轻人的便衣警察在警戒线附近站着。到处都是摄像镜头,监视着巨大广场上的中外游人。

    Original Article from Fortune Small Business http://tinyurl.com/2a5zshd

    A Tiananmen rebel turns capitalist

    After fleeing to the U.S., an entrepreneur returns to do business with his former oppressors.

    By Richard McGill Murphy, FSB Magazine

    First Published: April 17, 2007: 5:58 AM EDT
    shen_tong.03.jpg
    Tong, in front of the Great Helmsman’s jacket, during a business trip to Beijing.
    CHINA INC.

    The perils of doing business in the Middle Kingdom More small U.S. enterprises have been entering China in recent years, attracted by low-wage manufacturing and a middle-class consumer population of more than 100 million.
    China is not an easy place in which to operate. Corruption is rampant: One Beijing-based U.S. businessman budgets $20,000 a year to bribe officials. The average bribe is $250, often payable in retail gift cards.
    The bureaucracy can be dauntingly complex. “The government isn’t just one Sauron,” says a U.S. entrepreneur who has had his share of run-ins with Chinese officials. “It’s more like a lot of orcs.” One U.S.-backed Chinese travel website, Qunar (qunar.com), faced state wrath in January when it ran an aggressive ad comparing its lower fares with those of a politically connected Chinese-owned competitor. Although it wasn’t clear that the ad was illegal, officials forced Qunar’s marketing officer to apologize at a press conference.
    The American Chamber of Commerce in China site (amcham-china.org.cn) has more on local business conditions.
    (FSB Magazine) — I’m standing in an elevator on the ground floor of the Information Science and Technology building at Tsinghua University in Beijing. It’s a cold, sunny morning. A stiff breeze has banished the city’s habitual blanket of brownish-gray smog, and the air outside is crystalline. I start to introduce my translator to Shen Tong, an American entrepreneur, and his team of Chinese engineers and sales representatives. But Tong shakes his head sharply, and I fall silent. We are not alone.

    What kind of U.S. entrepreneur gets followed around Beijing by agents from the Public Security Bureau, China’s version of the FBI? Answer: A Chinese-American software developer who was once a political dissident right here in Beijing. An entrepreneur who helped lead the pro-democracy movement that led to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. A young capitalist who now sells Internet software that could open up Chinese society – or help keep it closed.

    Tong’s story is modern China writ small. The Communist Party still claims the exclusive right to make and enforce the rules by which citizens live. But China’s astonishing economic growth is being driven by freewheeling entrepreneurs such as Tong, not by the government.

    In 1990 the state controlled 83 percent of the Chinese economy. Today about 70 percent of China’s GDP is generated by the private sector, which is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises. Much weighs in the balance. Will the private sector’s growing power eventually make China more democratic (and more open to U.S. exports and investments) or trigger more repression?

    A black Audi Sedan with government plates trails Tong as he makes his way around the Chinese capital from his office in a new technology office park in northeast Beijing. He’s come to make sales calls at CNN’s Beijing bureau and at an Internet software research center here at Tsinghua, an elite technology school often compared to MIT.

    Usually the watchers keep their distance, but this morning one of them actually pushes his way into the elevator with Tong. In the corner of my eye, I see a nondescript man of about 40. He wears a black leather jacket and clutches a cell phone in his right hand. The man stares straight ahead, as if he were minding his own business and not Tong’s.

    Later Tong tells me that he doesn’t usually speak to the watchers. “They would consider it offensive,” he says dryly. “They’re supposed to be undercover.” But the entrepreneur was driven to address his minders on one occasion last year, during a business meeting in the lobby of the China World Hotel in Beijing. Public Security agents commandeered waiter uniforms from the hotel restaurant, he says, so that they could spy on him more discreetly. It didn’t work. Tong recalls, “I walked up to one of [the agents] and said, ‘You look ridiculous. You know that, right?’ And the guy blushed!”

    At 39, Tong runs a New York City software startup, VFinity (vfinity.com). His main product is a browser and search engine that universities, broadcasters and the like can use to manage their multimedia archives. Think video Google (GOOGFortune 500). The software allows anyone who owns, creates or edits a video to tag it and put it on a company server or anywhere on the Internet in a way that makes it easy to find. The company’s biggest market to date has been university libraries.

    A card-carrying member of the international hipoisie, Tong lives in downtown Manhattan, favors black clothing and collects Chinese contemporary art with an aesthete’s devotion and a businessman’s keen eye for future appreciation. During his one free afternoon on a recent business trip to Beijing, he sauntered through a series of galleries in Beijing’s über-trendy Dashanzi (“798”) district, an industrial area near the airport that has been transformed in recent years by an influx of artists, gallery owners and chic cafés.

    Tong bought a pair of paintings, posed for pictures near an outdoor sculpture of an empty Mao suit, and pointed out Chinese graffiti scrawled on one of the old factory walls. “Freedom belongs to the people,” Tong translated for me. “Wow! I’m surprised to see something that bold here. And look underneath: It’s signed ‘007’!” Tong laughed. Fifty yards down the street, his personal Agent 007 loiters in the late-afternoon gloom, wearing a short zippered jacket with a fur collar.

    Chinese government concern about Tong dates back to the late 1980s. As a biology student at Beijing University, he became deeply involved in a wave of student activism that was sweeping campuses in Beijing and other cities across China. At the peak of the movement in the spring of 1989, some one million Chinese students, intellectuals and labor activists staged a peaceful occupation of Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, calling for more democracy and less government corruption. During the Tiananmen occupation, Tong ran a movement press office that published an underground newspaper and operated a pirate radio station that broadcast out of his dorm room.

    “He was a poster boy for the student movement: good-looking but also bright and thoughtful,” recalls Jaime FlorCruz, a veteran China watcher who covered Tiananmen for Time magazine and now serves as CNN’s Beijing bureau chief. (Time and CNN, like FSB, are owned by Time Warner.) Tong also participated in efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to the standoff between the student dissidents and the Communist regime led by Premier Li Peng.

    Those negotiations failed. On June 4, People’s Liberation Army tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square. Hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed Chinese civilians were gunned down in the streets surrounding the square. A much smaller number of police and soldiers were beaten to death by enraged demonstrators after the shooting started.

    Tong evoked the violence vividly in his 1990 memoir, Almost a Revolution: “Hundreds of people rushed into the avenue to put up barricades, but as soon as they reached the middle of the street, a spray of machine-gun fire scattered them. People who had been hit fell to the ground and lay still. Those people are dead, I thought to myself. The bullets are real.”

    A ‘charmed life’

    The police came looking for Tong at his college dormitory and at his family’s house in Beijing. He went into hiding when the shooting started and fled China a few days later. He made his way to the U.S., took a biology degree from Brandeis, and pursued graduate studies in political philosophy and sociology at Boston University, living on scholarship, consulting and freelance-writing income. He also launched a nonprofit called the Democracy for China Fund, dedicated to supporting dissident networks in China.

    For a few years after Tiananmen, Tong traveled the world, speaking about the Chinese democracy movement, hobnobbing with international icons such as Vaclav Havel and the Dalai Lama, and generally leading the charmed life of a romantic young dissident who had played a prominent role in perhaps the most dramatic popular uprising of modern times.

    “What he did was courageous, but also prudent in a long-term way,” said the distinguished political philosopher Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard professor who mentored Tong during his graduate-school days. “He wasn’t just angry for the moment. He also had big plans, and I think still has big plans for a democratic China. We have to hope that they come true.”

    But by the late 1990s, Tong had turned his attention decisively from politics to commerce. He founded VFinity in 2000 and has since raised more than $10 million in angel financing. The closely held company has 45 employees and maintains offices in New York City, Taipei and Beijing. Clients include Brandeis University, Taiwan’s National University and various branches of the Chinese government.

    Tong is understandably reticent about his government contracting work in China. For the record, he denies that VFinity sells software to the Chinese military or other state security agencies. But Tong admits that he can’t control who buys his products through local resellers.

    Good and bad technology

    And VFinity’s Web site lists surveillance as one of the many industries that the company hopes to transform via VFinity 2.3, its flagship product. The marketing pitch continues: “Hundreds of thousands of hours of video are captured by security cameras every year. The challenge is to store this video in one place and make it intelligently retrievable for quick and accurate use by security professionals. VFinity meets this challenge.”

    Privacy advocates in the U.S. have long expressed discomfort with the increasing ubiquity of video surveillance, although you’d have to be the Unabomber to deny that video has a useful role to play in law enforcement. But VFinity’s marketing literature takes on more sinister connotations in a police state such as China. And the breezy language seems downright surreal when you consider that the founder of VFinity spent more than a decade struggling against China’s communist regime, which continues to track his every movement today.

    Tong and I discussed this question over the phone and late one night in the coffee shop of my hotel, where he insisted on sitting with his back to the wall so that he could keep one eye peeled for his minders. He noted that although VFinity’s video platform incorporates advanced facial-recognition technology, the company had chosen to license that capability from another developer rather than creating it in-house.

    “That’s a line we don’t want to cross,” he said. When I asked Tong whether he was crossing an ethical line by selling his software, even indirectly, to customers who might use it as a tool of repression, he shrugged. “I have no illusion that technology can be used for good and bad purposes,” he said. “Computers and telephones can be used by good guys and bad guys.”

    He argues, however, that VFinity will ultimately help the good guys, because it puts the power to manage media into the hands of ordinary users as well as experts. “There’s no doubt that a system designed to put media into anyone’s hands is liberating,” he says. “That was the starting point for founding this company.”

    Leaving political life

    If liberation is indeed VFinity’s corporate goal, the company has its work cut out for it in China. Eighteen years after Tiananmen, China remains a bureaucratic police state whose government passes laws and then interprets them to suit itself. Public speech is tightly controlled: Numerous Chinese journalists and activists have been jailed and harassed in recent years for daring to broach “sensitive” topics such as democracy, which remains a mostly abstract concept, HIV/AIDS (all too real) and official corruption, which permeates society.

    The Keystone Kops who follow Tong around Beijing represent a state security apparatus that struggles to monitor public gatherings, phone communications and every online keystroke by China’s 137 million Internet users, who are discouraged from accessing subversive content by a vast state filtering system known as the Great Firewall of China.

    The government tolerates Tong’s visits to Beijing, he says, on condition that he stay out of Chinese politics. He seems to keep his side of the bargain. But Tong shook his head when I asked whether he considered himself post-political. “Of course not,” he snapped. “I’m post-political only in the sense that I’m not coming back on a mission. I’m observing. [But] if I’m being honest, I have to ask if I’m making a difference.”

    Tong went on to muse about his generation of activists, few of whom are still confronting the Chinese government. “In our 20s we thought that democratization and ending corruption were the most important things,” he said. “Now the most important things are succeeding and becoming affluent.”

    Those who know Tong best, however, agree that he isn’t particularly motivated by money. I dined in Beijing one night with his older sister Qing Shen, a lively, elfin woman of about 40 who co-founded VFinity and has had a high-profile career as a glossy-magazine publisher and lifestyle columnist in Beijing. Over Thai food in a cozy, book-lined restaurant near Workers Stadium, I asked Qing why she thought her brother had left political life. “After ten years you get tired of not seeing results,” she replied matter-of-factly. “There’s still not much democracy in China.”

    Taxonomy v. folksonomy

    So what makes Tong run? Ambition, partly. While he may not hunger for personal wealth, he clearly wants VFinity to succeed in the marketplace. And like most charismatic leaders, he knows how to harness his own ambition to the power of a broader movement, be it Chinese democracy or the digital media revolution. But I think Tong also believes his rhetoric about the liberating potential of user-controlled, so-called Web 2.0 media technology.

    He loves to lecture customers, journalists and anyone else who will listen about the distinction between “taxonomy,” a system of classification in which experts provide all the descriptive information, and “folksonomy,” a system in which ordinary users make up their own descriptions on the fly. The Dewey Decimal System is a classic taxonomy, still used in libraries worldwide. Web 2.0 services such as YouTube and Wikipedia are folksonomies in the sense that any user has the power to add, organize and annotate the media content, be it text, photographs or videoclips. VFinity is both taxonomy and folksonomy: The administrator can define rules of description for every piece of content on the system, but any authorized user can also add his own descriptive fields.

    Is folksonomy liberating? That depends on how it’s used. And it remains unclear who stands to benefit more from folksonomy-based technology such as VFinity: Chinese government spooks, who will undoubtedly use it to spy on their own people, or scholars, activists, and journalists, who could use it to challenge the government’s version of reality.

    I thought about Tong as I walked through Tiananmen Square the other day. The square is actually a giant rectangle, bounded on the south by Mao Zedong’s mausoleum, where the late dictator lies embalmed in a glass case for all to see. It’s flanked on the north by the walls of the Forbidden City, once home to Chinese emperors and now a tourist attraction, and on the west by the Great Hall of the People, where the Communist Party holds conclaves from which ordinary citizens are normally excluded. Dozens of plainclothes security personnel, mostly quite young, stood around the perimeter. Surveillance cameras were everywhere, scanning the crowds of foreign and Chinese tourists who drifted through the vast, echoing space.

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