The following censorship instructions, issued by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.
Changle District People’s Government Office [Fujian Province]: Recently, foreign reporters were in Fuqing and Changle in relation to the death of illegal immigrants in England. Upon request, the director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Provincial Foreign Affairs Office has given the following order:
“If you encounter a foreign reporter conducting interviews, if they have a press card and legal permission to report, you can positively publicize and introduce our development achievements in recent years, that villagers live and work in peace and other positive information, and take this opportunity to publicize our rural development achievements; do not interfere. If it enters sensitive territory, you can persuade them to leave.”
The government office is requested to inform all units, and all township neighborhoods are required to carry out work as required by the Foreign Affairs Department at the higher level. (October 26, 2019) [Chinese]
On October 23, 39 dead bodies were discovered in the back of a truck in Essex, United Kingdom. Initially, police announced that the victims were Chinese nationals, but it is now believed that they were trafficked from Vietnam.
Fujian Province is the origin for most Chinese emigrants, and has also been a base for human trafficking. Conor O’Clery of the Irish Times reported from Changle soon after the bodies were discovered in Essex, before their nationality was confirmed:
Most emigrants from the province travel legally and overstay, but a minority of desperate young men and women fall into the clutches of criminal gangs known as “shetou”, or snakeheads, who at that time were smuggling some 100,000 people out of China each year.
In Changle, a district of the provincial capital Fuzhou, residents told me that people-smuggling was regarded as more lucrative than cocaine-dealing, with snakeheads demanding up to €50,000 for passage to England.
[…] Relatives and friends of smuggled emigrants were reluctant to talk to a foreigner about the migrant tragedy in Dover for fear of police harassment. They also worried about reprisals by snakehead thugs who did not want exposure of their methods or of the dire conditions suffered by their customers.
The issue was very sensitive for the Chinese authorities as well, so much so that when interviewing an artist in the coastal town of Jinfeng, I was roughly detained by security police, my interpreter had her face slapped, and I was ordered back to Beijing. [Source]
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.