February 12 — In the latest effort to push a “clean up” the country’s cultural sector ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games, China’s censors aimed their lances at films containing scenes of horror and supersition, citing the need to “protect the mental and physical well-being of minors.” A notice released by China’s General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) said “rigorous checks” would be carried out on audio and video materials produced in 2006 and 2007. Anything dealing with “horror or the supernatural” (恐怖灵异类) and found to be in violation would be “pulled from shelves, sealed up, confiscated and handled according to relevant regulations.” The notice, which spoke of a “resurgence” (回潮趋势) of horror and supersititon on the domestic market, added that production of such materials planned for 2008 release must be ceased immediately. In a commentary that topped Sina.com’s list of editorials the day of the notice’s release, Tao Duanfang (陶短房) suggested GAPP’s net was far too wide. While “the goal is to control and remove the negative effect this kind of material has on society”, Tao wrote, “it should be pointed out that the measure of a policy is not just its original intention but its operability (可操作性) and intelligibility (可理解性).” Before the authorities rush in to enforce this notice, said Tao, they should be clear about exactly what kind of material will be targeted. Would people still be allowed to watch Harry Potter and Journey to the West?
February 16 – In the latest fake photo scandal uncovered by Web users in China, Chengdu Evening Post reported that netizens had exposed as fake an award-winning photo depicting a herd of Tibetan antelopes passing in the foreground of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and that the photographer had gone on record saying the photo was indeed a composite. The photo, taken by Liu Weiqiang (刘为强), won an award for “most memorable news photo” from China Central Television in 2006. According to the Chengdu Evening Post report, a Web user posted a message about Liu’s photo on a popular Chinese-language site for photo hobbyists after discovering a suspicious line suggesting the image had been pasted together. Within hours the post had drawn thousands of comments and Web users had uncovered other problems with the photo. Liu is currently vice-head of the photo desk for Daqing Evening Post (大庆晚报), a commercial spin-off of Heilongjiang’s official city-level Daqing Daily. In an interview with reporters, Liu said he had never intended to release the photograph as a “news photo” and that CCTV had discovered his work and entered it into the contest without his knowledge. Quoted in Chengdu Evening Post, one expert photographer said CCTV should bear responsibility for the confusion. According to a report on February 18 by Southern Metropolis Daily, CCTV has publicly defended its decision to include Liu’s photo in the competition. The state-run network said the photo could be entered as a news photo because it had appeared in reports by the official Xinhua News Agency and other media. CCTV also released a transcript of an interview with Liu Weiqiang on the night of the awards ceremony in which the photographer says that he took the photo himself. [More coverage and translation at ESWN].
February 16 — In a move to promote greater government transparency, Kunming Daily, the mouthpiece of top leaders in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, printed a list of the names of city officials, their contact numbers and their specific areas of responsibility. An online copy of the list, which ran on the Kunming news site www.clzg.cn, was feverishly downloaded by Web users, according to a report in today’s China Youth Daily. While postings by Web users were generally enthusiastic about the list, initial response from officials was mixed. Kunming CPPCC member Wu Tinggen (吴庭根), quoted in China Youth Daily, was supportive. “Publicizing these phone numbers not only benefits the people in directly relating their problems, it also benefits the work of monitoring lower-level offices by superiors,” Wu said. “Doing this might make some officials really uncomfortable, but as it stands officials are too comfortable and the people are too uncomfortable, so how you see this really depends on where you’re standing.” Another local official told the newspaper, however, that the publishing of the list could carry a lot of negatives, overwhelming government offices with “fussy phonecalls” (骚扰电话) and impacting normal operations. Kunming’s top leader, party secretary Ying Yongsheng (应永生), told China Youth Daily that all official numbers, including his own, would be made public “so that if they need the people can reach us.” Ying Yongshen also said the city had plans to release a special manual including eight documents on Kunming’s soft environment (policies and laws, etc.), with the goal of making it easier for ordinary people and investors to navigate.