The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.
The Central Propaganda Department issued 21 rules for reporting on the annual “Two Sessions” of the legislative National People’s Congress and advisory Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which convened in Beijing last week.
1. Thoroughly report on Xi Jinping’s participation in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Emphasize reactions.
Recent months have seen mounting emphasis on Xi’s role as “core leader,” with Party members repeatedly ordered to unify behind him. These moves have prompted speculation about the construction of a “personality cult,” though the extent to which this really breaks with established norms is disputed.
2. In economics sections, ensure quality reporting on illustrative examples of steady growth.
3. Do not report on doctor-patient disputes.
Doctors and judges have been targeted by people unhappy with the outcomes of their cases, making them “high-risk professions.”
4. Do not report on security at the Two Sessions.
5. Do not report on [Shaolin Abbot] Shi Yongxin’s participation in the CPPCC.
6. Do not report behind-the-scenes information on Two Sessions news conferences, such as “beautiful female interpreters.”
Slideshows such as “Beautiful Female Journalists at Two Sessions,” “The Female Interpreters of the Two Sessions,” and “Attractive Females at NPC, CPPCC Sessions” have been a staple of state media coverage in the past.
7. Do not report on delegates’ personal wealth.
The meetings’ opulence has drawn caustic commentary in the past. The New York Times’ Michael Forsythe reported last year that the 18 richest delegates enjoy collective wealth greater than that of all U.S. congressmen, senators, cabinet members, and Supreme Court justices combined.
8. Do not report on national defense spending.
China’s new military budget was announced last week, showing the lowest growth in years as the economy slows and the fight against corruption reduces waste. Officers have described the modest increase as “disappointing,” and suggested that it is meant as a demonstration of Xi’s control over the armed forces.
9. Do not report on burial reform.
Nine government ministries issued a joint directive last month to encourage “environmentally friendly” burials that take up less space, such as shared grave plots and biodegradable urns. While these are still just suggestions, Party officials who insist on less ecologically sound resting places will be “rectified,” according to the directive.
10. Do not report on international conventions on civil and political rights.
11. Do not report on sensitive issues regarding religion, such as the demolition of illegal places of worship in Zhejiang.
Authorities in Zhejiang province have carried out more than 1200 cross removals and church demolitions since 2013. They have claimed that this is simply a matter of planning enforcement and public safety, but a leaked directive in 2014 suggested a concerted drive to lower the local profile of Christianity. The issue of Tibetan reincarnation also arose at the meetings, where the region’s deputy Party chief claimed that the Dalai Lama is “no longer a religious leader.”
12. Use Xinhua copy for reports that touch on corruption.
Authorities announced during the Two Sessions that nearly 300,000 officials were punished for corruption in 2015. Wang Rulin, Party secretary of Shanxi, told reporters on Sunday that the campaign has impeded economic development and governance in his province. Xinhua quoted other delegates’ claims that such “murmurs” were ill-founded.
13. Use Xinhua copy for reports on the case of Huugjilt from Inner Mongolia.
18-year-old Huugjilt was executed for rape and murder in 1996, but posthumously exonerated in 2014, nearly ten years after another man confessed to the crime. In January, authorities announced that 27 officials had been punished for their parts in the wrongful conviction, one of a string of cases that have highlighted the justice system’s reliance on forced confessions.
14. Do not report on the issue of unwillingness to learn from Lei Feng.
15. Strictly control negative reports in new media.
16. Use Xinhua reports on Taiwan and North Korea.
17. Use Xinhua copy on the issue of Tibetan delegates wearing Xi Jinping badges.
Many Tibetan delegates wore badges with pictures of Xi Jinping and his predecessors, reportedly describing them as “a spontaneous act to show gratitude to the leadership.”
18. Do not report on smog.
The meetings opened under a shroud of “Lianghui Gray,” with air quality readings above 400.
19. Do not report negatively on the property market, foreign exchange, stock market, traffic congestion, or number dealers [at hospitals].
Number dealers (号贩子) scalp numbers in hospital waiting lines and sell positions further up the queue. Dr. Cao Hongxin, director of science and technology at the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, told China Economic Net that number dealers could make RMB 250,000 ($38,000) a year based off of his own patient schedule. “That’s higher than my salary,” he added.
20. Do not report on the issue of delegates’ and committee members’ nationality. Do not joke about their proposals.
21. All media strengthen management of reporters in Beijing, and ensure that all conduct is orderly. (March 6, 2016) [Chinese]
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.