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Propaganda Instructions on Wenzhou Train Crash

July 26, 2011

The website Ministry of Truth (banned in China) regularly publishes the censorship directives issued to China’s state-run media by the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department — which makes it an incredibly revealing guide to what’s actually going on in China, what topics or information authorities feel are “too sensitive” for people to know about.

The instructions concerning Saturday’s deadly high-speed rail collision near Wenzhou speak for themselves:

Central Propaganda Department: In regard to the Wenzhou high-speed train crash, all media outlets are to promptly report information released from the Ministry of Railways. No journalists should conduct independent interviews. All subsidiaries including newspaper, magazines and websites are to be well controlled. Do not link reports with articles regarding the development of high-speed trains. Do not conduct reflective reports.

Additional directives for all central media: The latest directives on reporting the Wenzhou high-speed train crash: 1. Release death toll only according to figures from authorities. 2. Do not report on a frequent basis. 3. More touching stories are to reported instead, i.e. blood donation, free taxi services, etc. 4. Do not investigate the causes of the accident; use information released from authorities as standard. 5. Do not reflect or comment.

Reminder on reporting matters: All reports regarding the Wenzhou high-speed train accident are to be titled “7.23 Yong-Wen line major transportation accident.” Reporting of the accident is to use “ ‘in the face of great tragedy, there’s great love’” as the major theme. Do not question. Do not elaborate. Do not associate. No re-posting on micro-blogs will be allowed! Related service information may be provided during news reporting. Music is to be carefully selected!

It is worth noting that these instructions have been widely ignored by Chinese journalists responding to widespread public anger and frustration over the accident.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    July 26, 2011 10:32 pm

    Could the government be acting any more strangely about this train crash? I know this accident makes them look bad but I’d think they could invent something less suspicious than trying to keep things quiet, and then doing something really weird like burying parts of the train at the accident scene. Who just buries a train?

  2. July 27, 2011 12:04 am

    Not all the media follow this directive apparently. Many local newspapers and TV reported their own investigation result and interview.

  3. Le fois permalink
    July 27, 2011 2:08 am

    That was enlightening, thanks. I wonder what the actual death toll is since we can’t trust the Chinese media to be unbiased.

  4. Conor permalink
    July 27, 2011 4:29 pm

    Hi Patrick,

    Your previous post touched on how high-speed rail is – due to its high prices – actually targeting high-end users and so is competing with airlines (rather than moving low-end users up the value chain).

    No surprise then to read the following in the FT:

    Chinese airline stocks jump after rail crash

    Shares in Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines have soared since the weekend’s high-speed rail crash. But while people may be scared away from rail travel in the short term, in the long run they could still prefer its convenience for short-haul travel

  5. July 28, 2011 9:44 pm

    Very interesting, and the complete opposite of the way some of the western media seem to operate given the recent revelations concerning the (now defunct) News of the World and other elements of the Murdoch empire.
    Personally I prefer my media reporting to sit somewhere between the two.

  6. July 29, 2011 3:17 am

    As I come from Hong Kong, I have read the news there, which reports frustration of many relatives who have lost loved ones in the incident. Many protests are held as the news is revealed that after the crash, people were sent to the site; not to rescue or help the trapped passengers, but to clear up the mess.
    I find this ridiculously senseless and outrageous that one could mix up their priorities so badly.

  7. July 29, 2011 9:21 am

    This was really predictable, although surprising that it happened so quickly. They’ve been putting up trains in 2 years that would take 10 years in the US, Europe, or Japan. Caixin has reported about using corrupt contractors who use cheap materials. Bubbles often lay the foundation for growth over the long term (like fiber optic that went dark and is now lit with video). But not if it’s shoddy construction.

  8. July 31, 2011 3:47 am

    yes, most defintely widely ignored as of now. check weibo.

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