According to Radio Free Asia reporter Zijin, Ian Johnson, a Wall Street Journal reporter in the USA who won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Falun Gong practitioner Chen Zixiu's brutal beating death, recently published a new book named "Wild Grass." [Visit http://www.asianreviewofbooks.com/arb/article.php?article=357 and http://www.ncuscr.org/Public_Education/ianjohnson.htm for more info]

The book tells the story of how three ordinary Chinese citizens stepped forward at the grassroots level to defend their basic human rights. On March 29, the New York Asia Society, the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and the Overseas Press Club cosponsored an evening program and book signing reception for Ian Johnson.

The author's book examines the cases of three Chinese citizens, including one from coastal China, one from Beijing, and another from Northwest China. It reflects the real situation of modern grassroots movements in different areas. The book's title, "Wild Grass" acknowledges these individuals' will to survive and thrive with little care or support.

One of the stories tells of a self-educated lawyer who helps peasants file a lawsuit against illegal taxation, and ends up being imprisoned. Although the peasants lost the lawsuit, government officials no longer dared to abuse and take advantage of them as boldly as before. Although Johnson demonstrates many shortcomings of the legal system, he also showed measured optimism, indicating that many people have now begun using legal means to expose corruption in the government. The second story is about a Qinghua University architect who tries to save Beijing's dwindling heritage from the bulldozer. The third story covers Falun Gong practitioner Chen Zixiu's daughter's appeals for her mother's unjustified death, and how she was subsequently sentenced to three years of forced labor.

Ian Johnson says, "If you ask the Chinese if they are interested in politics, they generally say no, but they are very concerned with corruption. They wish for common rights and freedoms, and are unhappy with government officials controlling their property and beliefs. People are gradually realizing that they need to step forward and use legal means to protect their rights."

A member of the audience asked Mr. Johnson what prompted him to report on the Falun Gong issue. He said that Falun Gong is an important issue regarding China's future. The editor also realized that the persecution deaths were not just one or two isolated instances, and that this phenomenon truly reflects the gap between China and the rest of the world.

A reporter asked him whether, as a Westerner, he encountered any obstacles or dangers in reporting on the persecution against Falun Gong practitioners. He admitted that indeed there was risk involved. Local Chinese policemen keep a close watch on where a foreign reporter goes, and they know where he/she stays.. The worst case for him was to be expelled from the country, but his main concern was for those he has interviewed.

An audience asked his opinion on China's progress. He replied that China's economics is making progress, yet there's no sign of political reform at this point. The Communist Party remains above the law.

Ian Johnson is currently the Berlin Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal. He lived in China for seven years and served as the Beijing correspondent and Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal.

(April 1, a broadcast by Radio Free Asia summarized by Epochtimes)