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 four directives were released on January 20, 2020.
On January 20, a knife incident occurred at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, injuring doctors and a patient. Relevant departments are currently dealing with the situation. If reporting, follow information from authoritative departments, play the story down, do not make links [to relevant stories], do not aggregate, and do not hype. (January 20, 2020) [Chinese]
An opthalmologist and three others were attacked by a patient’s relative wielding a vegetable chopper in the latest of a long-running series of attacks on medical staff. South China Morning Post’s report on the incident noted that according to a survey published in 2018, "more than 30 per cent of health professionals had experienced violence at work." The Supreme People’s Court stated in May that "189 defendants in 159 concluded cases were penalized for injuring or killing medical workers or seriously disturbing the medical environment from January 2019 to April this year."
A series of directives at the start of the year guided coverage of a previous incident at Beijing’s Civil Aviation Hospital, the funeral of slain doctor Yang Wen, and the subsequent trial of her assailant, who was later executed.
Regarding the closing of the WeChat public accounts "Gelonghui" (格隆汇) and "Gelonghui College" (格隆汇学堂), and the Weibo account "@GelonghuiAPP" (格隆汇APP), related reports should follow information from relevant departments. Do not write thorough reports and interpretations. Do not link to or promote the essay "Ants in a Prosperous Era" or similar content. (January 20, 2020) [Chinese]
Gelonghui is a Shenzhen-based financial media and research firm. The immediate trigger for the account suspensions is unclear—the targeted essay "Ants in a Prosperous Era" was published in September 2016. It discussed the case of Yang Gailan, a poverty-stricken woman from Gansu who had killed her four children with pesticides and an axe the previous month, before taking her own life. Her family had been denied government financial support, and according to the AFP, "multiple media reports alleged corruption was a factor, saying their benefits had been cancelled because they had not bribed local officials." A directive issued on September 13, 2016 ordered that “websites must not issue public comments. Find and delete any unauthorized or independent reports, and eliminate any politically harmful content or commentary.” The "Ants" essay, which is archived at CDT Chinese, argued that "the problem was not Yang Gailan’s, it was actually society’s," and concluded:
A country’s true greatness or otherwise has nothing to do with how many brilliant leaders it has produced, or how many nuclear weapons, or the size of its foreign exchange reserves, or how many Olympic golds it has won, or its GDP growth … none of these meant a hair to Yang Gailan.
It’s about how you treat the disadvantaged! [Chinese]
The organization’s irreverence continued. In November last year, for example, a report from The Economist on the use of fake state-owned enterprise status to secure loans noted that Gelonghui had "published a tongue-in-cheek guide on how to become a fake SOE. Find a long-forgotten government institution; target an official with no hope of promotion; then ‘be a shameless toady’ to get the institution’s seal to register your company. Finally, build a maze of subsidiaries."
Regarding the Mercedes-Benz that entered the Forbidden City, brief reports based on information released by the Palace Museum are permitted. Do not comment, aggregate, or write extensive reports. (January 20, 2020) [Chinese]
Regarding the Mercedes-Benz that entered the Forbidden City, the Palace Museum has issued a public apology and decision on the incident. Brief reports based on the museum’s statement are approved, do not push pop-ups, do not conduct independent reports, do not aggregate, do not conduct extended reports, and properly manage comments. Strictly control the temperature on WeChat, Weibo, forums, etc., and guard against hype. (January 20, 2020) [Chinese]
On January 17, a Weibo user posted photos of herself and a friend posing next to a Mercedes SUV in one of the Forbidden City’s expansive courtyards, bragging that "the museum is closed today, so I’m taking advantage of this opportunity to avoid tourists and run wild." Another user cited by SupChina summed up the ensuing backlash, lamenting that "the Palace Museum, which is supposed to be a public asset owned by all citizens, has become a platform for a certain group of people to flaunt their wealth and privilege." The museum issued an apology, claiming that some vehicles had been allowed into the complex for overflow parking for a private event, and suspended its deputy director and head of security pending an investigation.
Concerning the novel coronavirus epidemic situation, promptly report information and prevention decisions issued by authoritative departments. Important information can be verified with the health department to prevent confusion, respond to social concerns, promote scientific prevention knowledge, and guide the public in strengthening their prevention awareness and ability. (January 20, 2020) [Chinese]
This was the latest in a series of directives on coverage of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic as it spread from its epicenter in Wuhan. January 20 saw the first reports of cases in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong, as well as South Korea, and state TV reports on renowned virologist Zhong Nanshan’s confirmation that the disease was transmissible from person to person, and Xi Jinping’s call for the disease to be taken seriously and contained. The total number of known cases stood at 282, with six deaths, according to the World Health Organization’s first situation report on the outbreak. As of October 1, they have recently passed 34 million and one million, respectively.
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.