China’s cyberspace watchdog said on Sunday it had ordered the closure of a microblog account of a former property tycoon, known for his bold remarks on China’s economic policy, for “spreading illegal information”.
Microblog portals such as Weibo.com and t.qq.com, among China’s most popular, were ordered to ban the account of Ren Zhiqiang, a retired top executive from a state-controlled property developer who has more than 30 million online followers.
“The cyberspace is not outside the laws, nobody is allowed to spread illegal information using the Internet,” Jiang Jun, spokesman for the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, was quoted as saying in a statement.
The statement, posted on the website of Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) (www.cac.gov.cn), did not say what specific comments had led to the ban of Ren’s account.
His account could not be found in a search on Sunday at Weibo.com, owned by Sina Corp, or t.qq.com, owned by Tencent Holdings.
Reuters was not able to reach Ren for comment.
According to a commentary posted on Feb. 22 on china.qianlong.com, a website run by the Beijing municipal government, Ren, a communist party member, was accused of making remarks against the state media and the party.
“Who gave Ren the courage to be anti-party?” was the title of the commentary, which also called him “cannon Ren who’s only a proxy for the capitals.”
The Chinese government routinely censors the Internet, blocking many sites it deems could challenge the rule of the Communist Party or threaten stability, including global sites such as Facebook and Google’s main search engine and Gmail service.
Authorities have launched numerous operations to combat illegal online behavior, from pornography to gambling.
Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping toured the country’s top three state new organizations – Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily and China Central Television – and asked them to toe the party lines.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Clark Li; Editing by Clelia Oziel)
In CCTV’s “Everybody” program on October 15, a mystic fighter jet appeared in the background. The aircraft has two vertical tail wings and an air inlet at the belly of the fuselage. It roused much speculation among military fans, but no one knows what it is.
Source: huanqiu.com “CCTV exposure of mystic fighter jet with air inlet at the belly of its fuselage and two perpendicular tail wings” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
China’s campaign to stamp out corruption has emboldened the country’s normally docile state media to push the barriers in exposing corporate wrongdoing.
While it’s still off-limits to delve too deeply into what government leaders and powerful institutions may be up to, recent ‘undercover’ state TV reports accusing state-owned Bank of China of aiding money laundering and a U.S.-owned food supplier of safety violations suggest the media are more ready to run critical reports.
China’s central bank said earlier this month it was investigating allegations by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) that Bank of China offers a service to help Chinese move more of their cash offshore than is allowed. Bank of China, the country’s fourth largest lender, has denied the allegations.
“Part of the reason the report went forward was because of the anti-corruption campaign,” said a CCTV network employee. “It isn’t like corruption never existed before, but now there’s a bit more room to report on it.”
Five current and former CCTV employees told Reuters that while the network had run critical reports on state-owned enterprises before, it was unusual to target a major entity such as Bank of China. All asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. CCTV could not be reached for comment.
“The Bank of China investigative reporting by CCTV is definitely part of the government-wide push to clamp down on corruption and related activities,” another CCTV insider said, adding that Chinese-language TV channels were putting more resources into chasing investigative stories.
Foreign companies operating in China, and their local suppliers, are also in state-media’s crosshairs.
A documentary last week by Shanghai government-owned Dragon TV accused food supplier Shanghai Husi Food, owned by Illinois-based OSI Group, of mixing expired meat with fresh produce, triggering a food safety scandal that has since spread to Hong Kong and Japan.
Several foreign fast-food brands, including McDonald’s Corp, pulled the company’s products from their outlets and switched suppliers. Regulators in Shanghai said Husi forged production dates on smoked beef patties and sold them after they had expired.
Late on Saturday, OSI said on its website it was withdrawing all products made by its Shanghai Husi business, and was carrying out an internal investigation into senior management that could end in legal action against those responsible.
“Reports on food safety have a broad impact and the (Dragon TV) investigative report was totally on the mark,” said Zhang Zhi’an, a journalism professor at Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou. “There have been more and more reports on food safety.”
A worker at an employment agency near the Shanghai Husi factory said an undercover TV reporter had come in seeking a job at the plant. “The reporter said he was from Sichuan (province), and wanted to enter the factory,” the worker said. “He looked honest to me.”
The reporter could not be reached for comment, and Dragon TV has declined to comment on the making of the program.
State media sources interviewed by Reuters said they knew of no explicit edict from Beijing to report on corporate wrongdoing – but that such investigative stories fit with the anti-corruption drive and generated strong viewing numbers.
“The Bank of China story could be done in part because of the wider political environment,” the first CCTV source said.
State media often avoid reporting on powerful state-owned companies because of their political ties, media insiders said. It would have been easy for Bank of China to pressure CCTV to kill the story if it knew beforehand that it was to be aired, said a person with direct knowledge of CCTV’s editorial processes.
“In China, if you contact the subject of your report before publishing, they will almost certainly use administrative means to suppress the report,” the person said. “If it does come out, they can also use connections to get the report ‘harmonized’,” he added, using a colloquialism for online censorship.
But China’s state media is far from being independent or filling a genuine watchdog role, media experts said. By and large, it only reports on important corruption cases to the extent that the government itself allows them to become public.
“Reporting on local and foreign companies is all well and good – as long as it doesn’t disturb those in the government with money and power,” said Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Source: Reuters “China’s anti-graft drive is making state media bolder”
- China: Severe Anti-corruption Storm on the Horizon dated August 31, 2013
- Severe Anti-corruption Typhoon to Sweep Entire China dated November 15, 2013
- Anti-corruption Storm Sweeps the Top dated November 22, 2013
- China Anti-corruption Storm Intensifies in Its Military dated March 23, 2014
- China widens anti-corruption drive to officials with family abroad dated July 16, 2014
- China probes more than 25,000 people for graft in first half of year dated July 26, 2014
Commentaries by two of China’s most influential news outlets suggesting that an ongoing air pollution crisis was not without a silver lining drew a withering reaction on Tuesday from internet users and other media.
In online commentaries on Monday, state broadcaster CCTV and the widely read tabloid the Global Times, published by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, both tried to put a positive spin on China’s smog problem.
The Global Times said smog could be useful in military situations, as it could hinder the use of guided missiles, while CCTV listed five “unforeseen rewards” for smog, including helping Chinese people’s sense of humor.
While both pieces have since been deleted from their websites, Chinese newspapers lost little time in denouncing their point of view, in an unusual case of state media criticizing other state media, showing the scale of the anger.
“Is the smog supposed to lift if we laugh about it?” wrote the Beijing Business Today, published by the city government’s official Beijing Daily. “Smog affects our breathing. We hope it does not affect our thinking.”
The Dongguan Times, from a heavily industrial city close to the border with Hong Kong, said CCTV’s comments were so bizarre people did not know “whether to laugh or cry”.
“There’s nothing funny about the health dangers of smog,” it wrote.
Even the main Xinhua news agency – which had initially picked up CCTV’s commentary – weighed in, writing on one of its official microblogs late on Monday that it was “totally inappropriate” to make fun of air pollution.
Air quality in cities is of increasing concern to China’s stability-obsessed leaders, anxious to douse potential unrest as a more affluent urban population turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has poisoned much of the country’s air, water and soil.
Large parts of eastern China, including the country’s prosperous and cosmopolitan commercial capital Shanghai, have been covered in a thick pall of smog over the past week or so, though Beijing’s normally filthy air has been relatively clear.
Users of Sina Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, also vented their outrage over the CCTV and Global Times’ comments.
“The smog crisis covering large parts of China has revealed the failure of the government’s development strategy of only going after GDP (growth). CCTV is shameless in trying to cover up for their masters,” wrote Wu Bihu, a professor at the elite Peking University.
“The Global Times thinks that pollution will cause missiles to miss their targets … How shameful! So that’s what all this smog has really been about. People had thought it was just bad pollution…,” state television in the eastern province of Shandong wrote on one of its microblogs.
Reuters “China’s state media under fire for arguing benefits of smog”
- Choking smog over eastern provinces spreads into Beijing dated December 8
- Smog descends again on northeast China, closing roads, airport dated November 25
- China: Thick Smog Blocked Road, Train, Air Traffic for 2 Days in Three Northeast Provinces October 21
- Beijing and surrounding Regions blighted by smog yet again February 18
The new People’s Daily premises has attracted numerous suggestive comments on social media
The shape of the new headquarters of the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s main propaganda machine, has sparked heated discussion online for looking a bit too phallic.
The building is still under construction in Beijing, but at its current stage, documented widely in pictures on social media sites, its shape is certainly suggestive.
Most photos posted on Sina Weibo, the mainland’s most popular microblogging site, were removed by censors, and attempts to search for “People’s Daily building” in Chinese were met with a message that read: “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results cannot be displayed.”
However, photos could still be found on other social media sites.
The 150-metre-tall building, located in the eastern extension of the capital’s central business district, was designed by Zhou Qi, a professor of architecture at SoutheastUniversity in Jiangsu. It is expected to be finished in May 2014.
In a recent interview with the Modern Express, Zhou explained that his design echoed the ancient Chinese philosophy of “round sky and square earth”, with the top part being cylindrical and the rest being squarish.
The elongated spherical form, he explained, was designed to appear from a bird’s-eye view as the Chinese character for “people”.
“Our [team’s] way of expression is kind of extreme, different from the culture of moderation that Chinese people are accustomed to,” Zhou said.
Zhou’s team won the final design bid for the project in 2009. But it quickly came to the attention of the public after the design plans were published, and many people have poked fun at it.
Some have described the building as looking like a steel-framed penguin, a giant juicer, an electric iron, a chamber pot and even an aircraft carrier. Some have said it looks like “the Gherkin” in London or Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, a luxury hotel.
But now that it is under construction, when viewed from a certain angle, some say it very clearly looks like a penis.
Others have joked that the building will compliment the headquarters of China Central Television, completed a few blocks away in 2008, which earned the nickname “the Big Underpants” for their shape.
“How perfectly the two match,” one wag wrote on a website. “After five years, CCTV will never feel alone.”
Often mocked for propaganda and ignoring reality, mainland’s most-watched TV news show has begun casting a critical eye over life in China
Mainland internet users sarcastically dubbed China Central Television’s (CCTV) nightly prime-time newscast, Xinwen Lianbo, the “happiest 30 minutes” on television, but there are now fewer smiles than before.
Broadcast on almost all mainland terrestrial television channels and with a viewership of more than 100 million, the show has a well-set pattern: two serious-looking presenters deliver the news formally in perfect standard Putonghua; party announcements, government meetings and top leaders’ activities always make the headlines, and there is a complete absence of expert opinion.
Some internet users summed it up in three phrases: the leaders are busy, the people are happy, and other countries are chaotic.
And a widely circulated joke on mainland social media sites goes: “I have a dream, to live in Xinwen Lianbo forever, where commodity prices never rise, traffic is never congested, the environment is always improving and criminals are captured.”
However, viewers have begun to notice since the start of this year that Xinwen Lianbo’s depiction of life is no longer perfectly happy.
The first unhappy voice came from a schoolboy on the second day of January. In a report looking back at last year, most interviewees, unsurprisingly, described it as “good”, or “not bad”. Then a six-year-old primary-school student from Inner Mongolia revealed his feelings: “I’m too tired … Chinese and mathematics are too difficult … why do teachers think up such weird questions?”
In the top story on January 20, a middle-aged woman complained about inflation. When asked about the prices of fresh vegetables while putting those she had bought into a plastic bag, she told a CCTV reporter: “The prices are too high, and we villagers can hardly stand that – too expensive. Can you report [that]?”
Her answer soon went viral on the mainland’s social media websites, including Sina Weibo, which hosts more than 500 million microblogging accounts.
“Since when can we ask Xinwen Lianbo to report our difficulties?” a microblogger wrote about the programme, which is viewed as a propaganda platform rather than a reflection of reality.
Pollution also made the news on Xinwen Lianbo in January, when northern China was shrouded in thick smog.
From January 11 to 17, when the smog first hit the capital, Xinwen Lianbo focused its coverage on the air pollution, rather than on top leaders’ activities.
On January 12, camera crews in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Anhui, Hubei and Henan showed smoggy yellow skies, closed highways and pedestrians wearing masks.
That footage was followed by a 45-second animation warning the public that “PM 2.5, particles 30 times finer than a strand of human hair … has become an invisible killer”.
In contrast, Xinwen Lianbo did not report on air pollution when smog hit Beijing on December 28.
That day, the top five news items were about the national leaders, followed by seven items praising model citizens and their good deeds. Only one item, lasting less than two minutes, warned viewers about the traffic safety hazards posed by the snow and the fog.
CCTV reporters have not been uniformly happy either.
A CCTV crew was attacked in Pingjiang county, Hunan , late at night on January 9 when it tried to film a paper mill’s illegal discharge of waste into Dongting Lake. The scuffle between the mill workers and the crew appeared in the following night’s newscast, in which questions were raised about the police’s response.
“An hour after the crew dialled 110 [a public emergency number], the local police arrived,” it said. “Reporters later learned that the police station was only five minutes away.”
Other changes have been noticed too. From January 4 to 8, Xinwen Lianbo ran a series of stories about a demolition project in Chengdu. Instead of using the more propaganda-friendly term chongjian (reconstruction), the editors chose a more sensitive word, chaiqian (demolition).
There was no praise of government efforts, nor cheering of affordable housing projects. The reports focused on residents seeking higher compensation, desperate moderators and tough regulators, and failed to offer any solution.
Viewers spotted another interesting change on February 6, when a bare-bottomed infant appeared on camera when then vice-premier Li Keqiang was speaking with a man during a visit to villages in Baotou, Inner Mongolia.
News coverage of top leaders’ trips is usually tightly scripted. However, the camera zoomed in and stayed on the boy for four seconds after he came out from a wardrobe and ducked under a blanket while Li was out of the picture.
“Xinwen Lianbo always features shiny faces and the buttocks represent honesty,” an amused microblogger wrote.
There have also been changes in the way news items are presented. On January 23, after a report about a campaign to tackle food waste, echoing President Xi Jinping’s appeals against extravagance, presenter Lang Yongchun sought comment from Yang Yu, a researcher at the National Development and Reform Commission’s China Centre for Urban Development.
It was the first time a commentator had appeared live on Xinwen Lianbo since its debut in 1978. Later that night CCTV said on its Sina Weibo microblog that experts would feature regularly on the newscast.
Some mainland media had linked the changes to Xi’s call for state-run media to report less on the meetings and events that national leaders attend, but instead select news items based on their “newsworthiness and social impact”, Xinhua reported.
China Press & Publishing News said Xinwen Lianbo’s ratings had risen markedly in the first five days of this year, compared to last year’s ratings.
But Professor Zhan Jiang, a media expert, said much more improvement was needed.
He said the negative reports and some newsworthy items could indicate careful testing of the new national leadership’s stance on news reporting.
“It is positive, but unless there’s a fundamental change in the propaganda system, there is still a long way to go before it [Xinwen Lianbo] turns into a real news programme,” Zhan said.
Source: SCMP “Reality pierces through ‘the happiest 30 minutes’ on television”
SCMP says: “The televised dressing down of state oil giant Sinopec for repeated regulatory violations has helped throw back the curtain on the lopsided battle between the mainland’s powerful state-run enterprises and its weak environmental watchdogs.
“For years, analysts and environmental advocates have complained state-owned companies have been allowed to flout environmental regulations as regulatory officials are either unable or unwilling to interfere.”
“The environmental practices of state-owned firms would be difficult to reform as their economic might and political power often gave them sway over regulatory officials, a source close to the ministry said.”
SCMP says according to source, “Local governments have been zealously courting big industrial projects by state-owned enterprises as they bring in tax revenues and create jobs.” and “On the other hand, the senior executives at these companies usually have higher official rankings than local cadres, making grassroots environmental watchdogs reluctant to bark.”
For details, please visit SCMP website at: