Minitrue 2017: April—U.S. Tax Plan, Guo Wengui
This series is a month-by-month recap of censorship instructions issued to the media by government authorities in 2017, and then leaked and distributed online. The names of issuing bodies have been omitted to protect sources.
Following two directives in January that sought to keep a lid on inflammatory coverage of the new Trump administration, and two in February targeting articles from flagship state media website The Paper, an order published by CDT in April combined the two. "All websites" were ordered to "find and delete the article ‘State Administration of Taxation Official: U.S. Tax Reform Lacks the Responsibility of Power,’" which quoted the director general of the State Administration of Taxation’s accusation that the U.S. risked an international "taxation war" with sharp proposed cuts to corporate taxes. The official, Liao Tizhong, acknowledged the U.S.’ sovereign right to change its tax policy, but said that it should be considerate and responsible in doing so.
Another of April’s leaked directives dealt with the "highly sensitive political event" of exiled tycoon Guo Wengui’s promised revelations about elite corruption. "Without a unified higher level department order," the notice read, "websites must not report, not forward (including domestic official media reports) and not comment (including on official and personal WeChat, Weibo, and other social platforms) on any content relating to this topic." A postscript suggested that this was the third such warning, and "serious consequences" were threatened for any disobedience. Throughout the year, CDT has provided selective translations of Guo’s claims, as well as third-party commentary and even rap videos, to help readers follow the tangled and controversial topic and understand the numerous and ardent following he has cultivated on social media.
A third directive in April sought to cool frenzied real estate speculation in Hebei following the announcement of a new special economic zone. Websites were ordered to "control negative commentary related to the establishment of the Hebei Xiong’an New District [and] add related keywords for filtering." As the vessel of substantial investment for those with sufficient resources and source of potential resentment for those without, as well as a frequent nexus of corruption, property markets have often been the subject of censorship meant to defuse possible tensions. A warning of possible market collapse in Zhejiang, "malicious attacks on the [political] system" over the lifting of property purchase limits in Shenyang, and an investment scheme involving 3-D printed housing have all been the targets of leaked directives in recent years. Elsewhere, a spike in divorce rates in Shanghai in late 2016, spurred by rumors that purchasing rules for couples would soon tighten, led to the deletion of social media accounts blamed for inflaming the situation.
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. 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.