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 March 3, 2020.
Reminders related to the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic:
- Give low-key handling to our government’s coordination of commercial charter flights to repatriate Chinese citizens from Iran. Brief factual reports are permissible, but do not extrapolate, decipher, comment, republish foreign media reports, draw connections to Sino-Iranian relations and cooperation, or use the term "evacuate." If reporting on accommodations for Chinese citizens following their repatriation, do so in accordance with information published by the relevant provinces and authoritative departments, and do not quote unverified online information. Do not conduct interviews with repatriated people or their friends and relatives in the absence of unified arrangements.
- In general, do not publish reports on online information such as "vegetables given to support Hubei by other regions left to go to waste."
- If reporting on the number of fatalities from novel coronavirus pneumonia in welfare institutions, senior citizens’ homes, mental hospitals etc., proceed in accordance with information published by authoritative departments. Do not cite data published by social organizations or foreign organizations, or information circulating online.
- In the next few days, the Hong Kong and Macao governments will repatriate groups of their citizens from Hubei. Do not create reports for domestic audiences; reports for foreign audiences may proceed on the basis of unified deployment. (March 3, 2020) [Chinese]
These directives’ instructions on the COVID-19 epidemic echo many themes from previous orders, including the tone of coverage of the epidemic in other countries, avoidance of potentially inflammatory terminology and topics such as evacuations of Hong Kong, U.S. and other citizens, and standardization of sourcing with heavy emphasis on official releases. Other recent orders had also similarly called for rectification of names involving the South China Sea.
The order about "foreign media commentary on sensitive issues involving Xinjiang" came two weeks after The New York Times’ release of reporting on a major trove of leaked documents on China’s mass detention campaign in the region. It also coincided with a report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on various Western firms’ suspected use of forced labor in the region, an issue which remains controversial amid lobbying over proposed legislation in the U.S.; and with criticism of the detention campaign by NGOs at the United Nations. March 3 saw the opening of an exhibition at the the Palais Des Nations in Geneva intended to rebut such condemnation during the 43rd regular session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. The display included "more than 100 pictures and videos presenting a beautiful, open, and richly-endowed Xinjiang" in which "people of different ethnic groups, thanks to social stability, are able to share the fruits of development and enjoy their life and work."
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.