In a statement that we are pretty sure is not an April Fool’s joke in itself, state media has come out against the anti-China, anti-socialist tradition that is April Fool’s Day.
On its official Weibo page, Xinhua, a state media agency never exactly known for its sense of humor, told its followers earlier today: “April Fool’s Day is not in keeping with our national cultural tradition or socialist core values. Please do not believe, create or spread rumors.”
Social media users couldn’t help but laugh at the directive:
“This is the best April Fool’s Day joke yet,” one netizen wrote.
“In the West, it only happens one day a year; however, in certain Asian countries, it is every day, every year,” another posted.
“The media is publishing false news to fool people every single day, what difference is one more?” another user commented.
“In China, every day is April Fool’s Day,” echoed another.
“I will watch CCTV news to celebrate April Fool’s Day,” another wrote in.
“I never knew Xinhua had a sense of humor,” another netizen posted.
Within just a few hours, the original Xinhua Weibo post was filled with thousands of satirical comments from netizens, and Xinhua chose to close comments on the post.
With this statement, Xinhua appears to be taking the silly Western holiday very seriously. “Spreading rumors” is a favorite catch-all term used by the Chinese government to prosecute those on the Internet disseminating misinformation about things like the Tianjin blasts and avian flu. Back in 2013, new guidelines called for anyone who posts rumors that are reposted by over 500 people or seen more than 5,000 times to be subject to up to three years imprisonment; effectively ending the golden age of Weibo.
It seems that Chinese media is taking the hard-line, tired of falling for various April Fool’s Day hoaxes. Most infamously, in 2012, People’s Daily reported that Kim Jong-un had been named “Sexiest Man Alive,” citing The Onion. The party mouthpiece ran a full 55-page photo spread showing off the Pyongyang-bred heartthrob’s “devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm and his strong, sturdy frame,” before realizing that they had been had.
In 2013, CCTV ran a report that Virgin was about to begin a glass-bottomed plane service, citing CEO Richard Branson’s April 1st announcement. The program’s producer later dodged calls from reporters, asking her to comment on the report.
That same year, the business daily 21st Century Herald was tricked into reporting that Paul Krugman had gone broke.
In another incident that only recently came back to light, former state media journalist Li Zhurun admitted that in 1981, he had read a report that cadets at West Point were being taught to “learn from Lei Feng,” the mythical PLA soldier. He reported the story and it soon became big news in China. It wasn’t until 1997 that Li learned the original story he had read had ran on April 1st.
On that note, check out The Beijinger’s exclusive report on Mark Zuckerberg getting his Chinese green card.