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 two directives were released on February 9 and 10, 2020.
Regarding reports on the epidemic, do not take the initiative in covering controversial topics, and do not look back or repost on controversial topics from the past. (February 9, 2020) [Chinese]
This broad, pre-emptive directive aimed to help “control the temperature” and contain potentially emerging sources of discontent amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The ban on highlighting "controversial topics from the past" reflects a common tactic meant to obscure parallels and patterns that could help fuel public anger. Another example is a January directive on coverage of a hospital doctor’s murder by the disgruntled son of a patient, which included an order not to "link to or relate to other incidents of injured doctors."
Highlighting Hong Kongers’ support for the mainland was likely intended to bolster Beijing’s consistent domestic narrative on the territory’s mass protests in 2019 and 2020: that, despite the scale and breadth of participation, they were the work of a narrow separatist minority in league with foreign adversaries. The authorities had been pushing similar messages of unity within Hong Kong. A Spring Festival address by new Liaison Office head Luo Huining, for example, which was the subject of an earlier leaked directive, quoted Xi Jinping’s adage that "harmony in a family makes everything successful."
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.