The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.
Twitter user @beidaijin has posted a screenshot of a notice on “public opinion management and guidance” in Jinzhong, a prefecture-level city of 3.2 million people in Shanxi. Public opinion guidance seeks to channel popular opinion, restricting rather than totally cutting off public speech, a principle discussed in detail by David Bandurski at ChinaFile. The Jinzhong notice instructs regional and functional departments how to harness public opinion within their jurisdictions, reporting their work to a central leading group:
— 贝带劲 (@beidaijin) November 18, 2015
Jinzhong Municipal People’s Government Office File
2015 No. 69
Jinzhong Municipal Government Notice on Strengthening City-Wide Public Opinion Management and Control
To the People’s Governments of All Counties (Districts, Cities), the Open Economic Zone Management Committee, and Work Units Directly Administered by the City:
So that we may progress in unblocking the channels for the masses to make appeals, promptly detecting the hot-button issues about which the masses have strong opinions, effectively managing the ideas and suggestions brought forth by the masses, efficiently safeguarding the interests of the masses, ceaselessly improving social management, defending social harmony and stability, establishing a positive image for the government, and thoroughly executing city-wide public opinion response management work, the following requests are put forth to strengthen city-wide public opinion management and control:
- Strengthen Organizational Leadership
The municipal government has established the Jinzhong Public Opinion Management and Control Leading Group, which is responsible for coordinating and directing city-wide public opinion response management work. The leading group’s office is located in the management center at city hall, and is responsible for daily tasks in the management and control of public opinion.
- Perfect Workflow
(1) To implement graded management of public opinion, the people’s governments of all counties (districts, cities), the Open Economic Zone Management Committee, and work units directly administered by the city will thoroughly carry out public opinion response management work in their region or bureau, according to local ordinances and functional divisions. Departments at all levels must effectively strengthen their sensitivity to public opinion, promptly detect public opinion information online and in the media, adopt effective measures for rapid management [of public opinion], and avoid letting negative public opinion proliferate or create adverse effects. When the circumstances of negative public opinion have been verified and responsibility for the opinion is clear, the opinion must be sincerely accepted, a frank explanation offered, and a prompt notice of rectification and reform issued. When circumstances and responsibility are unclear, promptly declare your position, quickly organize an investigation, and do your utmost to dispel doubt among the public. When countering false reports and incorrect information, promptly issue comment and reveal the truth of the matter, and directly organize, invite, and guide experts and the media to release objective and impartial opinions based on the seriousness of public opinion, clarifying false speech from the perspective of the third party. In the case of provocative online comments by a minority with ulterior motives, you may vie for the support of the controlling body of the relevant media group to promptly block and delete the content. You must promptly investigate and punish oppositional public opinion that maliciously attacks and vilifies the Party and the government, and make a serious search for those responsible.
(2) Implement the classification, management, and control of public opinion. Divide public opinion into three grades of normal, greater, and major based on quality, influence, and scope. The people’s governments of all counties (districts, cities), the Open Economic Zone Management Committee, and work units directly administered by the city must promptly detect and deal with public opinion at the normal level; swiftly handle greater and major public opinion while simultaneously reporting it to the office of leadership, and promptly report on the progress of its management; major public opinion must be reported immediately to the leading group, while the leading group must promptly activate its emergency management plan, and also coordinate, guide, and launch public opinion response management work.
(3) Unblock the channels for the masses to make appeals. Departments at all levels must make practical use of the hotlines 12345, 12315, and 12319, as well as the mayor’s (county head’s) mailbox. Promptly and effectively respond to and handle the difficulties and issues brought forth by the masses. Dispel the masses’ harmful emotions and avoid triggering negative public opinion.
(4) Consolidate departmental duties and assignments. The people’s governments of all counties (districts, cities), the Open Economic Zone Management Committee, and work units directly administered by the city must designate one administrative leader for the management and control of public opinion in the region or department, as well as one person to specifically handle the coordination and processing of public opinion management and control. Departments at all levels must integrate regional specialties and departmental obligations to formulate a scientific, rational emergency plan for tendentious, emergent, and rallying public opinion. At the same time, you must strengthen coordination, prompt communication, and information and resource sharing, guaranteeing the orderly development of work.
- Reinforce Communication
The people’s governments of all counties (districts, cities), the Open Economic Zone Management Committee, and work units directly administered by the city will send weekly reports to the office of the leading group on the collection and handling of public opinion in their region or bureau. Once the leading group office has tabulated and analyzed all of the reports, it will report to the municipal Party committee and the municipal government. The leading group may be contacted at 3203020.
General Office of the Jinzhong People’s Government
November 13, 2015 [Chinese]
Read more about public opinion guidance from CDT.
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.