Minitrue: Focus on Henan Flood Recovery; Do Not Report on Celebrity Tax Case or COVID Origins Press Conference

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

  1. Regarding the heavy rain striking Henan and other places, shift the focus of reporting toward post-disaster recovery. Without prior permission, do not publish unauthorized images showing dead bodies, take an exaggeratedly sorrowful tone, or hype or draw connections to past events. Strictly adhere to authoritative information with regard to statistics on casualties or property damage.

  2. Do not report on the Zheng Shuang tax case.

  3. This morning, the State Council will hold a press conference on tracing the origins of COVID-19. Do not report. (July 23, 2021) [Chinese]

Extraordinarily heavy rainfall caused massive flooding in Henan this week. The confirmed death toll in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, rose to 51 on Friday, with another 400,000 displaced and damage amounting to $10 billion dollars. The situation in rural areas remains unclear, but is likely to be worse. CDT compiled an overview on Thursday of English-language news and social media coverage, highlighting a further selection of posts from CDT Chinese. Natural disasters are a perennial focus of censors in China, particularly due to frequent criticism of official preparations or responses. For more on official handling of natural disasters and their aftermaths, see CDT’s interview with historian Jeremy Brown.

Actor Zheng Shuang was at the centre of two major scandals earlier this year, one involving the alleged abandonment of two children born to surrogate mothers in the United States, and the other over alleged tax evasion and contract fraud. On Monday, Zheng broke a months-long silence on Weibo, promising "to accept criticisms from all sides and consciously reflect on my mistakes," and "to make up the shortfall if there are errors caused by my negligence or unprofessionalism. I hope the tax authorities can accord me due process and not be influenced by the surrogacy incident." Such due process is not guaranteed: law professor Donald Clarke noted regarding a similar case against megastar Fan Bingbing in 2018 that "according to the Chinese government’s own story, this is an ordinary case of tax evasion by a rich person. And yet even in this ordinary case, the state could not manage to follow its own rules.” CDT published several directives related to the Fan Bingbing case, two governing reports and comments on entertainment industry "yin-yang contract" tax evasion, and a third forbidding critical commentary on subsequent tax collection changes.

Also this week, Chinese authorities rejected plans from the World Health Organization for further investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origins.

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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