The instructions for censoring content, given by government officials, have been leaked and shared on the internet. The name of the organization responsible has been left out to safeguard the source.
Announcement from the City Propaganda Bureau: (Compilation)
All sources of information (including official and local WeChat accounts!) that share news about the passing of Li Keqiang are required to only use content from mainstream central sources (Xinhua, CCTV, People’s Daily). Following this, mourning events will follow protocols for national leaders. Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement.
2. Proper management of comment sections is crucial. Be mindful of excessively enthusiastic comments and evaluations.
In addition, please ensure that any entertainment-related news is not displayed in the same section when republishing. If there are any upcoming entertainment or commercial activities/events, please inform the appropriate departments so that they can be temporarily put on hold (such as “Autumn Colors” and “Kung Fu Movie Week”). (October 27, 23) [Translated from Chinese]
Former Premier Li Keqiang died from a heart attack early on Friday morning. The death of any former PRC leader is a politically sensitive occasion, particularly given the role of former CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang’s death in fueling protests in 1989. The above instructions were compiled for internal use by a censorship department/media organization based on higher-level directives. In several respects, such as the emphasis on standardization and muting of entertainment content, they resemble more extensive sets of instructions leaked after the death of former General Secretary Jiang Zemin in November 2022.
The caution against “excessively enthusiastic remarks” about Li is due to concerns about making “highly critical” statements that are disguised as exaggerated praise. In Li’s case, the effusive compliments are also laced with subtle criticism towards Xi Jinping, who has marginalized Li and his progressive beliefs. This tension was previously highlighted by censors in 2018, when Li’s comments about promoting public oversight of government actions were removed from an official speech on “clean governance.” Following his passing, online comments have already surfaced eulogizing Li with phrases like “the Yangtze and Yellow River will not flow backwards,” which are widely interpreted as a subtle critique of regressive aspects of Xi’s leadership. Some universities have allegedly advised students not to discuss Li’s death on the internet and have prohibited group mourning activities.
The passing of Li may further perpetuate the belief that he represented a different approach for China, but his own impact was not free from controversy. In November 2018, a directive was issued for all websites to immediately remove an article titled “Li Keqiang Gave Important Instructions on Strengthening AIDS Prevention Work.” Despite his seemingly benign appeals for better and more scientific efforts in this field, his time as governor and Party Secretary of Henan from 1998 to 2004 was met with criticism due to his aggressive handling of the repercussions from government-sponsored blood-selling schemes that led to a surge in HIV infections.
Alexander Boyd made a contribution to this post.
Due to the potential for directives to be leaked online by journalists and editors who received them orally, the wording published here may not be completely accurate. These instructions may originate from local authorities or be targeted towards certain industries, and may not be applicable to all of China. The date provided may reflect when the directive was leaked rather than when it was initially issued. CDT makes every effort to confirm dates and wording, while also taking measures to safeguard the source. Visit CDT’s compilation of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.