The following censorship 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.
Do not republish the Sohu article “Cautiously Welcoming the Decision to Suspend the Lianyungang Nuclear Waste Project.” Please delete it wherever it has already been published. (August 11, 2016) [Chinese]
Thousands in Lianyungang, Jiangsu began protesting last weekend against a planned Sino-French nuclear waste processing facility. After some were injured during clashes with police, the local government promised “to suspend preliminary work for selecting a site for the nuclear cycle project.” The unrest is just the latest in a series of environmental protests which have complicated plans for expansion of nuclear power and other industrial development.
The Sohu article targeted by the directive described the suspension as the “correct response” to the protests, but argued that the authorities’ 13-character statement leaves too much uncertainty, and that a final decision should swiftly follow. The authorities’ lack of transparency, it suggested, was to blame for the growth of public opposition:
Within the space of a few days, the position of the Lianyungang government underwent an earth-shaking reversal entirely on account of the public’s great efforts. The people hated the reportedly multi-billion yuan nuclear project, and were unable to get a single piece of useful information about it. The project negotiations were a closed affair between the contractor and the government, and because the results were so sketchily publicized, the public were dissatisfied at being kept in the dark. [Chinese]
Ideally, it continued, the suspension would be followed by effective communication and equitable dialogue between the public and government, with the former playing a properly informed role in the final decision about the project site. Moreover, lessons should be learned to avoid the derailment of other nuclear projects around China.
The article observes that the public may be skeptical of the suspension because of past cases like Qidong in 2012, when local officials announced the “permanent cancellation” of a paper factory’s waste pipeline project in what Sohu labeled “a ruse to stall for time and deceive the public.” It concluded:
No matter how large the nuclear cycle project’s halo, no matter how much the China National Nuclear Corporation values an order for a multi-billion yuan nuclear waste treatment facility, and no matter how eager the French party Areva is to cast off the pressure of its financial nightmares [background] with this Chinese project, now that the site suspension has been announced, it is to be hoped that this act is not a perfunctory tactic to manage public opinion pressure, but a starting point for open dialogue and consultation. Do not overestimate the strategic value of concealment, and do not underestimate the public’s resolve in opposing nuclear waste, which is far more dangerous than a paper factory’s waste water. [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. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.