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 three directives were released on February 20, 2020.
Regarding Russia’s imposition of border restrictions on our citizens, please take a low-key approach. It can be the subject of brief, factual reports, but do not elaborate, interpret, comment, compare with similar restrictions by other countries, or relate to Sino-Russian relations and cooperation. Promptly handle negative content. (February 20, 2020) [Chinese]
- Regarding reports on spring plowing, take precise hold of framing and content, avoiding shots of farmers wearing surgical masks to plant seedlings in open fields.
- Reports on dancing among patients and medical workers at Wuhan’s makeshift hospitals have been shown to great effect in recent days. For now, do not schedule any more such reports, to avoid trivialization from excessive focus. (February 20, 2020) [Chinese]
These instructions continue a steady stream of directives on coverage of the COVID-19 epidemic. The closure of the Russian land border to incoming travelers on January 30 was the subject of an earlier order barring unapproved reporting. China later temporarily closed its own side of the border, stranding hundreds of its own citizens.
The reining in of reports on dancing at makeshift hospitals illustrates a tension between two other themes of earlier directives: celebration of the rapidly erected facilities as showcases of China’s strong response, and maintenance of a generally sombre tone amid the ongoing national crisis.
If reporting on the execution of Sun Xiaoguo on February 20, do so precisely on the basis of that day’s articles from central media. Do not independently newsgather or report in the absence of unified arrangements, do not relate to or hype past events, and strengthen orientation checks if publishing commentary." (February 20, 2020) [Chinese]
Sun Xiaoguo was sentenced to death in 1998 for rape, intentional injury, and public disturbance. His sentence was progressively reduced, however, and he was eventually released in 2010. Twenty officials were later disciplined over this leniency, including former Yunnan Higher People’s Court President Zhao Shijie, whose dismissal over the case was among the subjects of an earlier directive on January 7. Sun was sentenced to 25 years in prison for crimes committed after his release, and his original death sentence was upheld in a separate retrial late last year.
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.