Minitrue: Propaganda Directives for the Fifth Plenum

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

Cyberspace Administration: Hello everyone, below you will find a summary of the expanded security and management criteria for the "fifth plenum," combining supervisory requirements and risk assessment. Attached is a list of relevant words to be managed and controlled. Please strengthen management at all levels. Please let us know immediately if you have any questions.

I. Political Rumors
1. Harmful political rumors and smear campaigns from abroad
2. Speculation on high-level infighting, power struggles, positioning of personnel at the 20th National Congress [in 2022], leadership ranks in the coming [administrative] term, or establishment of successors
3. Negative hype around personnel restructuring or policy documents, rumors, and inappropriate analyses
4. Find and delete so-called political bombshells dropped by sensitive persons, such as "Lu De, Guo Wengui, and Lao Deng"
5. Strengthen management of content involving inappropriate remarks by foreign anti-China politicians

II. Leadership
1. Harmful information that attacks, mocks, or starts rumors about leaders and important speeches
2. Harmful information related to the U.S. presidential election and comparisons with China’s electoral system
3. Strengthen control of news commentary, articles, and criticism about leadership from abroad
4. When livestreaming, strengthen information management and control of any inappropriate images of leaders’ behavior or speech, sudden incidents, and other situations that may appear
5. Negative messaging regarding important speech, spirit, and instructions from leadership
6. Harmful information involving personnel changes that are connected to leadership, such as factional struggles, the Xi faction, etc.
7. Strengthen control of information that conflates stock market fluctuations with leadership
8. Strengthen control of harmful information connected to leadership regarding foreign relations, Sino-Japanese relations, Sino-Indian relations, Sino-American relations, or Sino-Canadian relations, etc.

III. Ideology
1. Harmful information that attacks our political system, social system, Party, and government
2. Harmful information that attacks our internet management policies
3. Messages about Hong Kong or Taiwan independence, or speech by personages who support Hong Kong or Taiwan independence
4. Strictly control the infiltration of information about FLG [Falun Gong], anti-China, and anti-Party organizations and individuals
5. Badmouthing of China’s model of economic development, exaggeration and speculation on fluctuations and adjustments in the Chinese stock market, negative interpretations of China’s economic data, and groundless criticism of China’s economy
6. Harmful messaging that maliciously speculates on China’s poverty alleviation policies and objectives
7. Harmful information that hypes or attacks China’s struggle to comprehensively establish a moderately prosperous society, as well as poverty alleviation work

IV. Stability Maintenance
1. Harmful information about terrorism, violence, or guns and other banned items
2. Incitement to illegal gathering, incitement to "chain petitioning" and demonstrations, online and offline support for politically sensitive persons
3. Hyping of negative social information related to Beijing, and attacks on Beijing’s safety and security measures
4. Harmful information that latches onto sensitive and sudden incidents in order to fabricate and disseminate online [messaging] that affects national security and social stability
5. Harmful information about Beijing’s tightening of security, management, and traffic control
6. Negative complaints about security measures for the fifth plenum, e.g. that the measures are a nuisance or that the people have no means of livelihood

V. Other Items (Unrelated to Security Checks)
1. If a major negative event occurs during the fifth plenum, take action to control and ameliorate the situation;
2. All product hot lists, hot searches, and push notifications shall strictly execute the Regulations on Governing the Ecology of Online Content. Without exception, news stories on violent murders, vicious criminal cases, mass incidents, school violence, and celebrity gossip must not appear in prominent places, including home pages and home screens, banners, popular search lists, and pop-ups, without centralized planning. Do not republish foreign information without authorization. Compilation of vulgar and crass entertainment gossip is strictly prohibited.
3. Strengthen publicity for important speeches, articles, and policies
4. Other regulatory requirements as issued by the supervising agencies (October 22, 2020) [Chinese]

These instructions govern media and social media surrounding next week’s fifth plenum of the Party’s 19th Central Committee, which is expected to bring the unveiling of the 14th Five Year Plan, a longer-term economic vision for the period to 2035, and further centralization of political power. Major political meetings and their attendant security arrangements are typically the focus of detailed media guidance: past examples from CDT’s archives include a set of 21 rules for coverage of the 2016 Two Sessions, and a series of directives issued by Henan’s provincial propaganda department over four days during the 2018 Two Sessions.

Translation by Anne Henochowicz

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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