Yang Liwei. Photo from china.org.cn
A top official at Xinhua news agency has given a rare talk at Tianjin Foreign Students University detailing the cover-up techniques used by state media to manipulate news stories.
Entitled ‘Understanding Journalistic Protocols for Covering Breaking News’, Xia Lin aimed to show students how news-making in China has to serve the dual function of giving the country’s leaders a rapid and ‘accurate’ account of events, whilst manipulating public opinion to ensure an image of social stability. As a result, the CCP can hold on to its power comfortably in the knowledge that society, at least on the surface, is ‘harmonious.’
Xia discussed CCTV’s live coverage of astronaut Yang Liwei’s return to China having orbited the Earth fourteen times in 2003. In contrast to his apparently flawless trip back to earth, Xia admitted the reality was somewhat different. The New York Times writes,
a design flaw had exposed the astronaut to excessive G-force pressure during re-entry, splitting his lip and drenching his face in blood. Startled but undaunted by Mr. Yang’s appearance, the workers quickly mopped up the blood, strapped him back in his seat and shut the door. Then, with the cameras rolling, the cabin door swung open again, revealing an unblemished moment of triumph for all the world to see.
He also delved into details regarding the deadly 2009 riots in Xinjiang, claiming Xinhua concealed various horrific particulars for fear of wider unrest beyond Urumqi. According to a report by DWNews (translated by ESWN) Xia said,
The Uighurs watched people get on board the buses and then they stopped and toppled the buses. When the buses were set on fire, the trapped passengers were burned alive. According to the medical examination results, a number of the dead were tortured and raped. Some Uighur women and children joined the riots, including women who used their high-heeled shoes to hit Han people. The body of a Han foot-bather was left lying naked in the street. When the military took charge, the Uighurs and Han’s continued to stand off on opposite sides of the street, separated by “the Wall in Palestine.”
Xia added that, for the purposes of information gathering, Xinhua’s reporters snuck into a hospital to photograph the bodies of those killed during the early days of the unrest. claimed these deaths were reported to Beijing but did not enter official news reports.
Online postings regarding the lecture were quickly picked up and deleted by the net nanny, though transcripts in full are still hovering, including this one from China Digital Times. From the CDT, Xiao Qiang says Xia is
“basically telling these students that journalism in China is a big show, it’s fabricated, but in the end it’s all justified for the higher purpose of stability.”