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 five directives were released on February 22, 2020.
No public reports or comment focused on various proposals, suggestions, and appeals for the establishment of a day or space commemorating the fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic. Promptly search out and delete extremely negative information and harmful opinion. (February 22, 2020) [Chinese]
Without unified arrangement, no retrospective reports regarding the “one-month mark” of Wuhan’s lockdown. Don’t give prominence to the “one month” concept, strictly regulate sources, strictly prohibit engaging in “clickbait” headline writing, and ensure propagation stays orderly and within the rules. (February 22, 2020) [Chinese]
Reports and information touching on the “novel pneumonia epidemic situation” must reflect the guiding principle of positive propaganda. Do not gather negative and sensitive reports, don’t dredge up old stories, strictly prohibit using non-standard sources, especially self-media articles. Strictly prohibit quoting foreign media reports without authorization, distorting the intended meaning of authoritative reports, or engaging in “clickbait” headline writing. Do not push pop-ups with unverified information or negative reports. (February 22, 2020) [Chinese]
Chinese propaganda authorities issued near daily directives in January and February to contain and shape the narrative surrounding the worsening outbreak of COVID-19. Positive framing, and the avoidance and deletion of “negative” and “harmful information” have been recurring points in authorities’ guidance. In late February, at least in part due to new tallying methods, China’s coronavirus cases began to decline as they were rising dramatically in other countries. Wuhan, the city where the virus was first discovered, imposed a strict lockdown on travel in and out of the city and on residents departing their homes in January 23. Despite earlier directives banning reporters from traveling to the city, several managed to report from Wuhan while local residents also recorded their own personal accounts. A directive from the February 21 also guided the media not to compile retrospectives on the lockdown.
In mid-February, the Trump administration announced it had revised its list of countries that receive subsidy exemptions for being considered developing nations. About a dozen countries, including China, were eliminated from the list.
One of the five booksellers associated with Hong Kong’s Mighty Current Media and Causeway Bay bookstore who were detained from abroad in 2015, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai was sentenced to 10 years in prison in late February for “illegally providing intelligence” to foreigners. The 2015 detentions heightened concerns about Beijing’s willingness to conduct cross-border detentions to crack down on criticism. Gui’s location was unknown until he appeared on CCTV in January 2016 making a forced confession. Gui was briefly released in 2017 and then detained again while riding a train to Beijing with Swedish diplomatic officials. Former Swedish ambassador Anna Lindstead was later recalled and investigated for arranging a meeting between Gui’s daughter and two businessmen in Stockholm without authorization.
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.