July 17 — A top official in China’s Information Office, the government arm chiefly responsible for controlling China’s internet, called the cover-up of negative news by local officials “naive”. Appearing on a CCTV talk show on July 13, Wang Guoqing said some government offices were “relatively naive” in “covering up” negative news and preventing media reporting. Addressing the recent Shanxi Kiln Affair, the official said that if local officials had revealed the truth to begin with, “I think the public would have understood, and there wouldn’t have been the kind of irrational expressions on the Internet that we saw later.” Covering up negative news, Wang said, had become a matter of custom for many local government offices. The show of openness by the official was belied by the office’s continued efforts to control the Web in the run up to the 17th National Congress.
July 18 — Chinese Journalist, a monthly magazine published by Xinhua News Agency that, along with People’s Daily’s News Line, is responsible for conveying the “management spirit” of state propaganda ministers, ran a piece about how media can convey to the world the great achievements of the Chinese Communist Party — by employing “the facts”. The article was a further sign of the determination of party officials to intensify pressure on Chinese media in the run-up to the all-important 17th National Congress.
July 19 — Beijing authorities issued a report saying a Beijing TV news story claiming that some street vendors in the capital filled steamed buns with a mixture of cardboard and pork fat was manufactured by an unscrupulous freelance reporter. Beijing TV issued a public apology on June 18 for the report, but Web users remained skeptical.
July 20 — Guangdong’s Southern Metropolis Daily argued in its lead editorial that a public failure to believe the official version of the “cardboard bun” hoax underscored a lack of public trust in China in any and all sources of information. While problems like “fake news” are endemic to Chinese news media, the public has every reason to believe, given government controls on information, that officials — who argue the Beijing TV news story was manufactured — deliberately tried to discredit a real but embarrassing story.

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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