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.
Urgent Notice: It is Forbidden to Use the Internet to Engage in Illegal Activity
March 1, 2011
The following from all major websites is based on a publicly posted, urgent announcement issued by the State Council Information Office on March 1, 2011: According to the “Constitution of the People’s Republic of China” and related laws and regulations, at the same that citizens’ legal freedom of speech is protected, it is forbidden to use the Internet, instant messaging tools, the media, and other methods to engage in the following behavior:
1) organizing or inciting resistance, violating what is covered by the constitution, laws, and regulations;
2) trumping up or distorting facts, spreading rumors, or harming societal management and order;
3) organizing or inciting illegal gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, disturbing order in public spaces;
4) engaging in other activities that violate national, societal, or collective interests, as well as the legal interests of citizens.
Administrative bureaus will follow the law in strictly watching for and dealing with the above behaviors. For those activities that constitute criminal behavior, judicial organs will determine the punishment.
Wen Jiabao’s Interactive Exchange on the Internet
February 26, 2011
Tomorrow, February 27, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will have an interactive exchange with netizens. All websites must repost on-line copy from the Xinhua news agency in a timely, prominent, and comprehensive manner. It is not permitted to report by only choosing portions of the content and self-selecting a headline.
All websites must increase in strength leadership of on-line opinion. During and after Prime Minister Wen’s goes on-line for his interactive session, there must be strengthened surveillance of all interactive spaces, including forums, blogs, micro-blogs, instant messaging services, and social network websites. As soon as harmful information emerges it is to be immediately deleted. Do not permit it to continue to spread. For websites under their jurisdiction, all provincial Internet supervisory bureaus must intensify their surveillance, make strict their demands, and be absolutely intolerant when problems emerge.
国新办： 温家宝总理明日上午(27日) 将与网民在线进行互动交流。请各网站务必及时，突出，全面转发新华社的在线交流稿件。不允许只截取部分内容自选标题报道。
The Butcher and the Drug Dealer
February 25, 2011
A notice from an unnamed provincial propaganda bureau: 1) All media are not to report or repost any information related to Wu Gan (whom netizens have termed the “super vulgar butcher” chaoji disu tufu). 2) Do not report, repost, or comment on the Shaanxi-registered drug dealer who was executed in Fangchenggang in Guangxi. 3) Intensify surveillance of small newspapers and journals and the Internet. 4) Do not provide any further reports on Gui Zheng Tang taking bile from live bears. 5) The above information is to be provided only to principal people in charge at media organizations.
Speech by Hu Jintao: Supervision and Innovation in Society
February 24, 2011
From the State Council Information Office: This week websites in all areas are to increase propagandizing the spirit of General Secretary Hu Jintao’s important speech on studying and discussing supervision and innovation in society. Intensify active leadership of online opinion, and create a positive online atmosphere for the opening of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
All websites must disseminate copy from important central news units, including People’s Daily (Renmin ribao) and the Xinhua News Agency, in a timely, accurate, and prominent manner. When propagandizing on General Secretary Hu Jintao’s speech, emphasize the two following points: 1) In supervising society we must persist in taking the people as the base, and govern for the people; conscientiously implement the basic purpose of the Communist Party: to wholeheartedly and enthusiastically serve the people; continuously and effectively achieve, protect, and develop the fundamental interests of the greatest number of people. 2) In supervising society we must unwaveringly persist in walking the road of collective prosperity; completely protect and improve systematic arrangements for the livelihood of the people; quicken the development of all societal endeavors; ensure that development achievements are more collectively enjoyed by all of society.
In China, several political bodies are in charge of Internet content control. At the highest level, there is the Central Propaganda Department, which ensures that media and cultural content follows the official line as mandated by the CCP. Then there is the State Council Information Office (SCIO), which has established an “Internet Affairs Bureau” to oversee all Websites that publish news, including the official sites of news organizations as well as independent sites that post news content.
This “Internet Affairs Bureau,” sends out very specific instructions to all large news websites daily, and often multiple times per day. Those instructions do not always mean that related contents are completely banned online, but they instruct websites to highlight or suppress certain type of opinions or information in a very detailed manner.
Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to those instructions, as well as other type of censorship orders to media and websites, as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.” The Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue, in Newspeak) is one of the four ministries that govern Oceania in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the Chinese blogosphere, it is the online nickname for the Central Propaganda Department and generally speaking, all other subordinate propaganda agencies including Internet supervision departments.
Today, it’s been said that news does not break, it tweets. For the officials in the the Ministry of Truth, the news is that their supposedly confidential instructions get tweeted as well.