Minitrue: Downplay Death of Xu Caihou

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

Regarding the death of due to bladder cancer, use only Xinhua wire copy. Do not make the story headline news on the homepage. Close comment sections. (March 15, 2015)

徐才厚因膀胱癌死亡一事一律采用新华社通稿,首页不做头条,关闭评论。 [Chinese]

Xinhua reports that former Central Military Commission General Xu Caihou died on Sunday. Xu was expelled from the Communist Party last June and was under investigation for corruption. While the charges against the deceased have been dropped, the government states that cases against Xu’s associates will continue, and that it will uphold a “zero tolerance” attitude towards corruption.

The South China Morning Post’s Minnie Chan reports that rumors of Xu’s death began to spread online on March 7, and that sources close to the military doubt Xu died just yesterday. Said one source, “Xu was expected to die many days ago, but it would have been impossible to announce his death at the time because there is a rule that no one and nothing can be allowed to shift the focus away from the ongoing National People’s Congress.” Leaked directives in response to the environmental documentary “Under the Dome” and to a knife attack at a Guangzhou railway station confirm that media were instructed to focus on the NPC and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), or “Two Sessions,” which ended just before the announcement of Xu’s death. Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign also picked back up on Sunday night with the detention of two NPC delegates: Deputy Party head of Yunnan Qiu He and chair of the state-owned First Automobile Works Group (FAW) Xu Jianyi.

The death of a senior military official would normally be top news, but not this time. A report of Xu’s death appeared on page nine of the PLA Daily. The story is missing from the homepages of the People’s Daily and Xinhua, but does appear buried under the headlines at The Paper and Global Times [Chinese].

FreeWeibo has archived deleted Weibo posts about Xu’s death, including a wry comment in the voice of the state by journalist Luo Changping (@罗昌平):

Luochangping (@罗昌平): “Firmly endorse the central government’s wise decision regarding Xu Caihou’s death due to incurable illness, and seriously study the military procuratorate’s recommendations for handling Xu Caihou’s death due to incurable illness.” (March 16, 2015)

“坚决拥护中央对徐才厚医治无效死亡的英明决定,认真学习军事检察院关于徐才厚医治无效死亡的处理意见。” [Chinese]

Aotulüshi (@凹凸律师): Nature’s Mysteries: Cancer takes the life of Xu Caihou. Online Comment: Die a year early and have a state funeral—in Babaoshan. Die a year later as a national villain—you can’t be sued. [sweat] Is death really a form of art? (March 16, 2015)

【天机弄人】徐才厚癌症离世。网评:早死一年国葬——八宝山,晚死一年国妖——罪不诉。[汗]死,原来也是一门艺术? [Chinese]

Xu is not the first to elude the corruption crackdown by dying. A Central Party School scholar warned last year that others were escaping through a “judicial loophole” by killing themselves.

Read more directives related to the Xu Caihou case from CDT.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.