Directives from the Ministry of Truth: Xinhua News Banned Terms
The following examples of censorship instructions, issued to the media and/or Internet companies by various central (and sometimes local) government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to those instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.” CDT has collected the selections we translate here from a variety of sources and has checked them against official Chinese media reports to confirm their implementation.
The following is a list of terms that are prohibited for use in Xinhua News Agency news reports. The list was first published in 2008.
Terms prohibited in news reports (first group)
1. Prohibited societal and daily life terms
A. Terms prohibited for people with disabilities include “lame,” “cyclops,” “a blind,” “a deaf,” “idiot,” “fool,” “retarded,” and other derogatory titles. Instead use “disabled person,” “blind person,” “deaf person,” “intellectually challenged person,” and other such terms.
B. When reporting the fact, especially when reporting on products and commercial products, don’t use “optimum,” “the best,” “the most famous,” or other strongly judgmental or colorful terms.
C. Reports on medicine cannot contain “the most effective treatment,” “complete cure,” “safe prevention,” “safe and without side effects,” and other such terms. Reports on medical products cannot contain “thoroughly eliminate the illness,” “money back guarantee,” “insurance company insured,” “the latest technology,” “the best technology,” “the most advanced method,” “the king of medicine,” “the country’s newest medicine,” and other such terms.
D. For artistic personalities, do not use “king of the screen,” “movie queen,” “super star,” “king,” or other such terms.
E. For reports on the activities of leaders and cadres of any level, do not use “personally” or other such adjectives.
F. As the national news agency, Xinhua News Agency reports should not use “wow,” “damn,” and other such slang, jargon or dirty language. If using this language in a quote is unavoidable, use bracketed annotation to express the intended meaning. The abbreviations of dirty language that have been used online in recent years, such as “SB,” TMD,” and “NB,” cannot be used in news reports.
2. Prohibited legal terms
A. The true identity of those involved in the following situations are not suitable to be revealed in news reports: (1) the family members of those suspected of a crime; (2) minors involved in cases; (3) the wives and children of those involved in a case, (4) those who have used artificial insemination and other forms of assisted childbirth; (5) those suffering from severe contagious diseases; (6) those suffering from mental illness; (7) those who have been violently forced to work in the sex trade; (8) those suffering from AIDS; (9) those with drug-use history or those who were forced to quit using drugs. When these people are involved in these situations, the news report can use a surname but add “mou” (so-and-so) in place of the person’s given name. For example “Zhang Mou” or “Li Mou.” It is not suitable to use a fake name.
B. For parties involved in criminal cases, before the court has read a guilty verdict, do not use “criminal.” Instead use “criminal suspect.”
C. In civil and administrative cases, the plaintiff’s and defendant’s legal standings are the same. The plaintiff can sue the defendant and the defendant can counter-sue the plaintiff. Do not use colorful sentences such as “So-and-so has been placed in the dock.”
D. Do not use sentences such as “Party committee so-and-so has decided to dismiss or expel Cadre so-and-so from the government.” Use “Party committee so-and-so has recommended the dismissal or expulsion of Cadre so-and-so from the government.”
E. Do not abbreviate “National People’s Congress Standing Committee Vice-Chairman” as “National People’s Congress Vice-Chairman.” Do not abbreviate “Provincial People’s Congress Standing Committee Vice-Director” as “Provincial People’s Congress Vice-Chairman.” Do not refer to any level of People’s Congress Standing Committee members as the “People’s Congress Standing Committee.”
F. Abbreviate “Village Committee Director” as “village director.” Do not refer to them as “village head.” Do not refer to village cadres as “village officials.”
G. When referring to a “thief” or a “rapist” in a news report, do not use societal standing to embellish the reference. For example: “A thief who was once a worker.” Do not write “worker thief.” For a professor involved in a case, do not write “a criminal professor.”
H. The head deputy executive of the Audit Department in the State Council should be referred to as the “audit chief” or “vice-audit chief.” Do not refer to the position as “department chief” or “vice-department chief.”
3. Prohibited terms relating to ethnicity and religion
A. For all ethnicities, do not use any out-dated names that have offensive connotations. Do not use “Huihui” [an offensive term for the Hui ethnicity], “Manzi” [an offensive term for southern Chinese meaning barbarian], or other such terms. Do not make wanton abbreviations. For example, the “Menggu Ethnicity” [Mongolian Ethnicity] should not be abbreviated as the “Meng Ethnicity.” The “Weiwuer Ethnicity” [Uighurs] should not be abbreviated as the “Wei Ethnicity.” The “Hasaike Ethnicity” [Kazakh] should not be abbreviated as the “Hasai Ethnicity,” and so on.
B. Colloquial and specialized terms that offensively reference ethnicity are prohibited. Do not use “Mongolian doctor” in reference to a “quack doctor.” Do not use “Mongolian person” in reference to “persons with Down Syndrome,” and so on.
C. Do not refer to minority ethnicity branches and tribes as ethnic groups. Refer to them only as peoples of a branch or tribe. For example, the “Moso People, the “Sani People,” the “Chuanqing People, the “Cheng People.” Do not refer to them as the “Moso Ethnicity,” the “Sani Ethnicity,” the “Chuanqing Ethnicity,” the “Cheng Ethnicity,” and so on.
D. Do not convolute modern ethnic titles with those from ancient times. For example, do not refer to “Goguryeo” [an ancient Korean kingdom that included much of northeastern China] as “Korea.” Do not refer to the “Kazakh Ethnicity” or the “Uzbek Ethnicity” as the “Turkic Ethnicity” or the “Turkic People.”
E. Muslim is a general term for followers of Islam. Do not lump ethnicity and religion together as one. Do not say “The Hui Ethnicity is Islam,” or “Islam is the Hui Ethnicity.” When the term “Arab” is used in a news report, it cannot be replaced with “Muslim.”
F. In a story concerning ethnicities of the Islamic faith, do not mention “Pork.”
G. The Muslim slaughter of cattle, sheep and poultry can only be called “slaughter.” Do not write “kill.”
4. Prohibited terms concerning our territory, sovereignty, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau
A. Hong Kong and Macau are China’s Special Administrative Regions. Taiwan is one of China’s provinces. In any written word, on any map or chart, careful attention must be paid to not refer to it as a “country.” This is especially the case when many countries or regions are listed consecutively. Extreme attention must be given to slipping any semblance of the words “country or region” here.
B. When it is impossible to avoid referring to Taiwan’s political system and other organizations, quotations should be used. For example, Taiwan’s “Legislative Yuan,” “Executive Yuan,” “Control Yuan,” “Elections Committee,” “Executive Yuan’s Comptroller,” and so on. The appearance of “Central Government,” “National,” “Chinese Taipei,” in written word is prohibited, but in unavoidable instances, add quotations, such as in Taiwan’s “Central Bank,” and so on. Taiwan’s “Legislative Yuan Chief,” “Legislative Committee members,” and so on, must all be in quotation marks. Taiwan’s “Qinghua University” and “Imperial Palace Museum” must be in quotations. The use of “Republic of China President (Vice-President)” and other titles for Taiwanese officials are strictly forbidden, even with the use of quotation marks.
C. For the so-called laws administered by Taiwan, these should be called the “regulations concerning the region of Taiwan.” For Taiwanese legal affairs, never use “official validation,” “judiciary assistance,” “extradition,” or any other international legal terms.
D. The two shores of the Taiwan Straits and Hong Kong cannot be referred to as “two shores, three regions.”
E. Do not say “tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan come to China for travel.” Instead say “tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan come to the mainland (or inland) for travel.”
F. “Taiwan” and “the fatherland/ the mainland” are corresponding concepts. “Hong Kong and Macau” and “inland” are corresponding concepts. Do not confuse them.
G. Do not reference Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau together with a reference to China. For example, “China-Hong Kong,” “China-Taiwan” or “China-Macau.” Use “Inland and Hong Kong,” “mainland and Taiwan,” or “Beijing-Hong Kong,” “Shanghai-Hong Kong,” “Fujian-Taiwan,” and so on.
H. “The independence of Taiwan” or “Taiwanese independence” must be used with quotation marks.
I. Some of Taiwan’s societal organizations such as “China Taoist Culture Alliance,” “China Promotional Committee for Cross-Straits Marriage,” and others using “China,” must be used with quotation marks.
J. Taiwan cannot be called Formosa. If it must be used in a quotation, quotation makes must be used.
K. The Nansha Archipelago cannot be called the “Spratly Islands.”
L. Diaoyu Island cannot be called the “Senkaku Islands.”
M. References to Xinjiang as “Eastern Turkestan” are strictly prohibited.
5. Prohibited terms concerning international relations
A. Do not use North Korea to refer to the Democratic People’s Republic of Choson. It can be abbreviated as “Choson.” English references should be “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” or the DPRK.
B. Membership of some international organizations includes some countries, as well as regions. In reference to this kind of organization, do not use “member country.” Instead use “member” or “member party.” For example, do not use “World Trade Organization member country” or “Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation member country.” Instead use “World Trade Organization member” or “Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation member party.”
C. Do not use “Muslim Country” or “Muslim World.” Instead use “Islamic Country” or “Islamic World.”
D. When reporting on Darfur, do not use “Arab militia.” Instead use “armed militia” or “tribal militia.”
E. When reporting on societal crimes and armed attacks, normally do not deliberately reveal the suspected assailant’s skin color, race or gender characteristics. For example, avoid references such as “black ruffian.” Simply use the term “ruffian.”
F. In public reports, do not use the terms “Islamic fundamentalism” or “Islamic fundamentalist.” “Religious radicalism (radical sect, radical group)” can be used as a replacement. When the use of such terms are unavoidable, use “Islamic radical group” but do not use “radical Islamic group.”
G. Do not use “crusader” or other such terms.
H. In hostage reports, do not use “behead.” Use neutral language such as “The hostage died of decapitation.”
I. In reports on casualties in international wars, do not use terms such as “shot dead.” “Kill” and other such terms can be used.
J. Do not refer to sub-Saharan Africa as “Black Africa.” Instead call it “sub-Saharan Africa.”