Critical Reading In China – ESWN
In the aftermath of the Freezing Point episode, there has been a rash of overseas Chinese-language reports on the unofficial but powerful group inside the Central Publicity Department (=Central Propaganda Department). If I were paranoid, I would think that there is a concerted campaign to eliminate this group. The following is a translated excerpt from Yazhou Zhoukan (dated March 12, 2006) (re-published at ChineseNewsNet):
[in translation] …Within the structure of the Chinese Communist Party, the critical reading group is an oddity. By name, it is supposed to belong to the Central Publicity Department. But most of its members are temporarily assigned retired news officials and they have no real job positions. Yet, its power far exceeds those of any of the bureaus underneath the Central Publicity Department. It publishes irregularly scheduled “Critical Reading of News Reporting.” These reports do not go through the formal organizational channels either upwards or downwards. They can be sent directly to the senior officials of the Communist Party, and they can also go directly to the provincial/city publicity departments and media. The issue in which Freezing Point was criticized went directly to the China Youth League Central First Secretary Zhou Qiang and the executive secretary, to the China Youth Daily editor-in-chief Li Erliang and the members of the Central Publicity Department Thought Work group members (the director is CCP Politburo standing committee member Li Changchun.).
The members of the Critical Reading Group often visit different places and media to issue “directives.” The team once went altogether to inspect work at CCTV. The CCTV chief, his deputys and all the individual channel directors attended to them. Some media tried to please the Critical Reading Group as best as they can, some media may be mad at them but they don’t dare speak out and then there are some brave media workers who pounded their desks and called them out. Freezing Point’s chief editor Li Datong wrote in his open letter to China Youth Daily’s editor-in-chief: “The personal opinions of the members of the Critical Reading Group have become almost like the sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of all the media.”