Minitrue: Focus on Fake News in Food Scandal

Minitrue: Focus on Fake News in Food Scandal

The following  instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.

Chengdu Online Propaganda Department: On the cafeteria issue at Chengdu Number 7 Experimental School, tomorrow’s press conference and today’s public opinion guidance should focus on fraudulent and false reporting. (March 14, 2019) [Chinese]

After moldy food was reportedly found in the school cafeteria last week and students complained of stomach pains, parents at a private high school in Chengdu staged a protest at the school gates. The principal has since been fired and other staff are under investigation, while local officials have been suspended, according to a report by Echo Xie in the South China Morning Post:

It came after a number of students complained of stomach problems, prompting a group of parents to visit the school canteen on Tuesday. They claimed to have found piles of meat and seafood covered in mould in the school kitchen, according to witnesses.

Photos and videos of spoiled food, apparently taken at the school, then flooded Chinese social media, and it emerged that a number of children had been suffering from stomach problems.

On Wednesday, angry parents protested outside the school in the Sichuan capital. Video footage appears to show hundreds of parents storming the school gates, with police using pepper spray and arresting some of the protesters. Witnesses said the parents also protested at the local government offices.

[…] Meanwhile, police have detained a woman accused of posting false information online, including allegations about the school canteen and the health problems it had caused for students. The woman had admitted to police she posted fake information on microblogging site Weibo, according to the report. [Source]

Videos of the parent protest circulated online:

The following day, a second directive was issued which asked website managers to promote an article titled, “Parents: School should be a place that you hold in awe (Teachers, please turn around),” which implored parents to show respect to their child’s teacher for their hard work and selflessness. Recipients of the directive were asked to post the URL where they had published the article back to the chat group where the directive was issued:

Chen Lihong, Chengdu Online Propaganda Department: All websites, please push the article below, and post the URL back to the chat group. (March 14, 2019) [Chinese]

Child safety and health is a particularly heightened topic for many parents in China given a number of recent scandals over food and vaccine safety.

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.


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