China: Improving Quality Journalism, One Ban At A Time

China is preparing for the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party. This con-fab is held every five years and brings together the leaders of the nation’s only political party. Some 2,270 delegates representing 40 constituencies will gather sometime this autumn in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Dates have not been announced, but you can expect delegates are keeping a flexible calendar to accommodate.

Click this picture to learn more about this impressive building

As the meeting is only held every five years, China is cleaning up and preparing for the high-profile session. Of course the building is being tidied and the areas around Tiananmen Square are getting beautified. But more than that the nation’s newspapers are getting a clean-up as well. They’re being told that some subjects are too sensitive to report on.

Like the anniversary of accident that killed 40 and injured 172 more.

Monday, 23 July is the one year anniversary of the deadly Wenzhou train disaster. Two high-speed trains collided. After authorities were attacked for trying to cover up. They buried one rail car hours after the crash as their way of getting the bad photographs out of the press. (Read my earlier post here.) Today that wreckage sits in a field alongside running trains.

Debris of the front car of the high-speed train

Now reporters are advised they cannot report on the anniversary. Those visiting the area of the crash have been ordered back to Beijing. One journal’s eight page tribute has been scrapped.

Even Weibo is blocking posts with sensitive terms like Wenzhou, Anniversary, Train Crash and more. Yet ingenious Chinese micro-bloggers are getting around the ban. One posted an icon of a candle and said:

“One year has passed, but can broken trust be repaired?”

Another news item being gradually removed from the news is Bo Xilai, the disgraced former Minister of Chongqing. For a full account of this bizzare tale of corruption, greed, murder and cover-up read my earlier post: “Fact, Fiction or Fairy Tale? Bo Xilai Stripped from China Communist Party.”

This week a Frenchman linked to the case was freed from prison in Cambodia on Monday and flew to Shanghai “”by his own will”, deputy national police chief Sok Phal told AFP. Patrick Devillers had been held in  Phnom Penh since June at the request of Chinese authorities, causing a diplomatic riff between Cambodia and France. In Shanghai, Devillers will testify in an open investigation into the murder of Neil Heywood.

The timing of this National Congress is tricky. The economy is slowing. Public unrest is growing and throwing money to stimulate the economy isn’t working. Some say the next leader of China may be the last Communist Party leader to hold power.

But of course no one can write about that.

Stop in the name of Journalism!

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