CDT has recently acquired and verified a collection of propaganda directives issued by central Party authorities to state media at the beginning of this year. These directives were issued on an almost daily basis in early 2020, and we will be posting them over the coming weeks. The following directive was released on January 8, 2020.
Do not report on the epidemic situation in Hong Kong, the special administrative region’s handling of the situation, etc. (January 8, 2020) [Chinese]
On January 8, The New York Times first reported on a “new virus causing pneumonialike illness” identified in China, adding that there is “no evidence that the new virus is readily spread by humans,”—a line that the WHO would within hours echo, citing Chinese authorities. According to the Times’ January 8 report on the emerging illness, eight people in Hong Kong had shown flulike symptoms after recent visits to Wuhan, and additional symptom screening had been installed at the Hong Kong airport. The first known Chinese censorship directive issued to control the narrative over the coronavirus outbreak came on January 2.
In early January, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement was entering its seventh consecutive month of protest. Beijing had just replaced its top official in the region, and 400 were arrested after tens of thousands at a New Year’s Day demonstration In the following months, the Hong Kong government would enact and extend viral control restrictions, including a ban on public gatherings. While these moves were supported by public health experts, some defended the right to protest during the pandemic (in the context of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the United States) amid concerns that the restrictions also served to further erode the political autonomy of the Hong Kong people at a crucial moment.
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.