Minitrue: Do Not Report on PKU Open Letter

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.

Do not report on the open letter incident, or republish or hype related articles from authoritative media. Content expressing so-called solidarity must not be shared from personal accounts. (April 25) [Source]

The open letter in question was written on April 23 by Peking University senior Yue Xin. It describes her and her family’s harassment by school authorities following her participation in a freedom of information request regarding a 1998 rape case involving a former professor. Yue writes that she was woken in her dorm in the middle of the night, forced to delete related data, and removed from campus; she demands an apology, legal explanation, and an end to any further interference.

The letter was quickly censored, but efforts to share it have been unusually determined, including the use of rotated screenshots to evade automated image scanning, distribution via censorship-resilient GitHub repository, and even blockchain inscription. CDT has archived the Chinese text and translated it into English, together with a February essay in which Yue discussed educational inequality, her own privileged background, and her resulting sense of social responsibility.

The Associated Press’ Yanan Wang reports on the surge of support for Yue:

Posts about Yue and Shen’s case have been heavily censored. The term “” was not searchable on the Twitter-like Weibo platform Wednesday, and posts related to her situation have been scrubbed from WeChat — prompting jokes that a “404 Error” symbol should become Peking University’s new logo.

Despite such measures, students have been vocalizing their discontent. Big-character posters — sheets featuring large, handwritten Chinese characters reminiscent of past protest movements — appeared near the historic Democracy Wall triangle on campus, where students advocated political reform in the 1980s.

“We ask you gentlemen in charge of the school: What are you actually afraid of?” the posters said, asserting that Yue was acting in the spirit of the , when thousands of students from Peking University, also known as PKU, marched to Tiananmen Square in 1919 to protest the government’s response to the Treaty of Versailles.

A petition published online Wednesday, said to be signed by students and alumni, condemned the school’s “unjust” treatment of Yue and other students who raised Shen’s case, demanding that pressure on them be lifted. [Source]

In a survey of support and censorship at SupChina, Jiayun Feng notes the appearance of a conciliatory commentary in People’s Daily, to which “articles from authoritative media” in the above directive likely refers.

Titled “How to listen to voices from the younger generation,” the article doesn’t explicitly address Yue’s demand for information transparency, and there are no mentions of Shen Yang 沈阳, the professor facing allegations of sexually assaulting the student Gao Yan 高岩 20 years ago and possibly causing her suicide.

Rather, the piece centers on how to cultivate a harmonious relationship between Chinese universities and students that “benefits both sides and the whole nation.” While acknowledging Yue’s open letter, which has been widely spread on various Chinese social media platforms, the article says that items mentioned in the letter await “further confirmation,” and that the critical point raised by the case is “how Chinese universities handle requests from students in a proper way,” as young people in this new era have a “strong sense of rights, law, and social responsibility” and “are more capable of comprehending this world independently than previous generations.”

The People’s Daily is far from the only voice on this matter, but it’s among a very limited number of voices that can actually be heard. That’s because a significant number of people who try to write on this subject are finding their works immediately censored on WeChat due to “violations of regulations.” [Source]

Updated at 22:36 PST on April 25, 2018:

On Twitter, The Washington Post’s Luna Lin shared a thank you note and brief situational update from Yue Xin, which CDT has translated below:

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who offered me their concern and help, I would like to return my highest respects to all of you!
The other day, I returned to campus.

真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.