The following censorship instructions have been leaked and distributed online.
[Notice from the Science and Technology Department]
In response to the directive from the Provincial Party Committee Propaganda Department, all Municipal Party Committee Propaganda Department Theoretical Research Offices (or sections), all social science departments (and research departments) of colleges and universities, and all relevant social science work units are instructed to comply with the spirit of the directive from higher-level authorities prohibiting the publication of articles related to the “pandemic-fighting spirit.” All work units are requested to comply with and implement this directive! (January 2, 2023) [Chinese]
The above directive was likely prompted by a recent incident in which an online post about a videoconference on the topic “Academic Research on the Great Pandemic-fighting Spirit and the Mechanisms by Which It Is Promoted” was flooded with irate comments from the public. The videoconference, which was held on December 19, 2022, was attended by over 60 historians, editors, and academics.
The post about the videoconference seemed to originate with the WeChat public account 左拾遗 (Zuo Shiyi), but it only prompted backlash after it was republished on December 26 by Shanghai-based public WeChat account 陆家嘴共享图书馆 (Lujiazui Gongxiang Tushuguan, “Lujiazui Sharing Library”). The December 26 post noted that the research project was funded by the National Social Science Fund of China, which distributes grants ranging from 600,000 to 800,000 yuan (between $87,140 to $116,186 U.S. dollars).
Netizens left scathing comments below the post, expressing anger that so much money would be spent researching the “pandemic-fighting spirit” immediately after the government’s abrupt lifting of COVID controls—and particularly, during a nationwide Omicron outbreak marked by many potential deaths and shortages of medicines and supplies. Some commenters suggested that this money could be better spent purchasing medicines for the sick, while many others lobbed invective at the social scientists for being “brainwashed,” “shameless and inhuman,” “worse than traitors,” “parasites feeding off the government,” “dickless wonders,” and “like they’d been kicked in the head by a donkey.”
The apparent effort to avoid further backlash recalls a previously published local directive from November 29:
The city requests that all counties and districts refrain from unnecessary propaganda about the trials and tribulations of frontline pandemic prevention and control work. Exercise extreme caution when publicizing “model deeds” on the frontline, particularly if this includes images or video. At present, there are so many vicious currents online that the response is all too often a chorus of criticism, which generates public controversy. [Source]
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.