China’s Virus of Lies in 2020

該內容僅提供英文版。

Viral Alarm

The following material is reprinted from China Digital Times 中国数字时代 with the kind permission of Samuel Wade, the deputy editor. This is a chapter in Viral Alarm: China Heritage Annual 2020.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
29 December 2020

***

Further Reading:

【CDT档案】‘2020年十大审查事件:讲真话求真相’, 《中国数字时代》, 12/28/2020, with links to material on:


The Virus of Lies:

2020’s Top Ten
Ministry of Truth Directives

2020年十大真理部指令

Collated by China Digital Times
Posted by Joseph Brouwer

Our colleagues at CDT Chinese have put together a list of the Top Ten Directives from the Ministry of Truth. We have translated the introductory text and the list of directives, many of which have previously been posted in English on CDT.

Joseph Brouwer
24 December 2020

In , all of our lives have been rewritten by the spread of . As of December 20, there have been 76,400,000 confirmed cases globally, and 1,690,000 people have lost their lives.

This public health disaster could have been averted, or at least to largely contained December 30 of last year. Talk of “new SARS cases” was already circulating among the people, but Chinese officials claimed this to be “rumor” and severely punished “rumor mongers” while proclaiming “we have not found clear evidence of person-to-person transmission,” “have not found any infected medical personnel,” and calling the virus a “minor illness” that is “preventable and controllable.” Most ironically, five days before Wuhan locked down, the city’s Baibuting neighborhood held a “10,000 Family Banquet” to welcome the Lunar New Year. Attendees brought fevers back to at least 50 of the neighborhood’s buildings.

But, even more dreadful than the coronavirus is the virus of lies—to this day we still haven’t found out who patient zero of this great plague was. How did it cross from animals to people? Why did the massively expensive public health emergency monitoring system built after SARS completely fail in the face of this virus? Meanwhile, the propaganda organs  steadily turned up the volume, propagating “the Miracle of China’s Fight Against COVID-19,” while ridiculing other nations’ pandemic responses, “They can’t even copy homework correctly.” Before his death, in response to a question about his redress for spreading “rumor” about a new illness, Dr. Li Wenliag said, “It is more important for people to know the truth. To clear my name is not that important to me.” Since his passing, citizen journalists and volunteers who have shared the truth have been regularly arrested and detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

A few days ago, The New York Times and ProPublica published the joint report, “No ‘Negative’ News: How China Censored the Coronavirus.” The report drew on over 32,000 directives and 1,800 memorandums leaked from an office in Hangzhou’s Cyberspace Administration Office to analyze how Chinese authorities manipulated public opinion about the pandemic. One group of documents showed that has become a sort of competition. Each website begins the season with 100 points. If their monitoring of essays or comments is found to be lacking, points are deducted, if their performance is outstanding, points can be added. During the first quarter of 2020, two local websites lost 10 points for “sending out illegal epidemic information.” One government-run portal earned an additional two points for “actively participating in, and guiding, public opinion.”

This all leads to desperation, but not entirely—popular wisdom still sprouts and grows in the cracks between censorship. After the essay “The Whistle Provider” was deleted, internet users used martian language, braille, emojis, Morse code, seal script, Classical Chinese—all sorts of methods—to launch an anti-censorship relay race.The works that remain will surely go down in the annals of internet history. On the night that Dr. Li Wenliang passed away, “There should be more than one voice in a healthy society” reverberated across the Chinese internet and the cries of commenters’ hearts turned his Weibo into an online “Wailing Wall.”

China Digital Times has long monitored internet censorship in China, consistently collecting, archiving, and translating” whenever possible. Each and every one of these directives is designed to create a so-called “correct collective memory”—and from this dejected present, it can seem as if they’ve succeeded. A directive is issued, and information is completely wiped out, slaughtered to the last character as if by a hostile army. But when looking back, you find that on the skeleton-littered battlefield, new growth has once again sprouted. Human memory cannot be deleted.

2020年,我们每个人的生活都被这场新冠病毒大流行所改写。截至12月20日,全球已经有7640万例确诊,169万人死亡。

这场公共卫生的大灾难本有机会可以避免,或至少得到大范围遏制——去年12月30日,民间已经开始流传出现“新的SARS病例”,但中国官方一面宣称这是“谣言”,严惩“造谣者”;一面大声宣扬“未发现明确的人传人证据,未发现医务人员感染”,“疫情可防可控”。最讽刺的是,在武汉封城5天前,该市百步亭社区还未迎接农历新年而举办了“万家宴”活动,其后该社区至少50栋楼出现发热病人

比新冠病毒更可怕的是谎言病毒——直到今天,我们仍不知道这场大流行的零号病人是谁?它是如何从动物传染到人类身上的?非典后斥巨资建立的公共卫生事件监测系统,为什么在这次防疫过程中完全失效?但另一边厢,宣传机器已经加大马力,一边宣扬中国的“抗疫奇迹”,一面嘲讽别国“连抄作业都抄不好”。即便李文亮医生在去世前发出了“真相比平反要更重要”的呼声,但传播真相的公民记者、民间志原者却都因“寻衅滋事”而被逮捕、被拘留。

昨天,《纽约时报》和非营利媒体 ProPublica 联合发表了报道《压制负面新闻:机密文件揭露中国如何操纵疫情舆论》,从杭州市网信办某办事处外泄的3200多条指示、1800多份备忘录和其他文件中,分析了中国当局如何操纵疫情舆论。其中一份文件显示,审查是变成了一场比赛:每个网站在季度开始时都有100分,如果文章或评论的监管出现漏洞会被扣分,表现出色则可以加分。在2020年第一季度,有两家地方网站因“发布涉疫情违规信息”各被扣除10分。一家政府门户因在疫情期间“主动参与舆情引导”而获得额外的2分。

这一切都令人绝望,但它们并不是全部——民间智慧仍然在审查的夹缝中萌芽、生长,《发哨子的人》一文被删除后,网友们用火星文、盲文、emoji、摩斯电码、篆书、文言文等方式展开了一场反审查接力,留下来的作品足以载入互联网史册;李文亮医生去世那一晚,“一个健康的社会不应该只有一种声音”响彻中国互联网,而网友们的心声也将他微博变成了一座“互联网哭墙”

中国数字时代长期关注互联网审查,也一直在搜集“真理部指令”。这些指令,无一不是为了建构一种所谓“正确的集体记忆”——在当时,它们似乎做到了:指令之后,片甲不留。但隔一段时间回头看,你会发现尸骨遍地的战场又长出了新芽,人的记忆,是删不掉的。

***

January & February: Mystery Pneumonia

Beginning in early January, the Chinese government issued almost daily directives limiting and guiding coverage of the emerging coronavirus. CDT acquired, verified, and translated propaganda directives issued by central Party authorities to state media  between January 2 and March 10 of this year which we published in our Minitrue Diary 2020 series. The first directive spoke of a “pneumonia of unknown origin.”

Regarding the pneumonia of unknown origin that emerged in Wuhan, Hubei, use information released by authoritative departments as the standard, do not write baseless conjecture. If in doubt, direct questions to the National Health Commission to prevent fake news reports from triggering mass panic. (January 2, 2020) [Source]

When reporting on confirmed cases and deaths from the novel coronavirus pneumonia, pay attention to protecting privacy. Do not identify patients by name, and do your utmost to avoid using real photos or images of patients unless using appropriate technologies to pixelate the identifying images. When giving the source of information, avoid wording like “doctors believe”; indicate the specific source as far as possible. Do not use “incurable,” “deadly,” etc. in headlines to avoid public panic. (February 1, 2020) [Source]

(1) All media reports on individual cases of relevant organs’ improper management, cadre nonfeasance, or other obstacles in pandemic control measures should be moderate. In general, do not aggregate. (2) “When reporting on limits on travel, controls on movement and other prevention and control measures, do not use formulations like lockdown, road closures, sealed doors or paper seals.” (3) Monitoring of public opinion surrounding the implementation of grassroots virus control measures should be moderate. In general, report through internal channels. (4) Regarding the progress of research into medication for the novel coronavirus, report on the basis of authoritative information published by the national Ministry of Health. Treat the curative effects of medicines that have not entered clinical use with caution and do not freely reprint internet news. [Chinese] (This translation includes text originally published in The New York Times)

All media: Do not use pop-up notifications for any negative news reports about the prevention and control of the ‘novel coronavirus epidemic.’ If you must report, only use authoritative information from People’s Daily, Xinhua, CCTV, as well as departments such as the Health Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and related Hubei Province and Wuhan counterparts. Our bureau will increase the intensity of inspection and supervision, if pop-up notification violations are discovered, they will be dealt with seriously. Please speedily implement the contents of the above directive within your jurisdiction with strict secrecy. [Chinese] (This translation includes text originally published in The New York Times)

1月到2月:疫情初期的相关禁令(4条)

武汉不明原因肺炎的相关内容,以权威部门发布信息为准,不作无端猜测,不援引外媒报导,不关联非典,防止不实报导引起恐慌。

关于新型冠状病毒感染的肺炎疫情,各网站、新媒体在报道确诊病例、死亡病例情况时,要注意保护隐私、不点名道姓,尽量避免使用患者真实照片和影像,可适当进行技术处理。要规范信息来源,避免使用“医生认为”之类表述,尽量指出具体信息来源。不使用“无法治愈”“致命”等标题,防止引起社会恐慌。
(本条指令内容来自《纽约时报》报道)

1、各媒体对有关部门处理不担当不作为干部和阻碍疫情防控等通报个案的报道要适度,原则上不集纳。
2、各媒体在报道限制出行、受控出入等防控举措时,不使用封城、封路、封门、封条等提法。
3、对基层管控措施落实情况的舆论监督要适度,原则上通过内部渠道反映。
4、关于治疗新型冠状病毒药物研究进展情况,要依据国家卫健部门发布的权威信息进行报道,对尚未投入临床使用的药物其疗效要审慎把握,不随意转载网上消息。
(本条指令内容来自《纽约时报》报道)

关于“新冠肺炎疫情”防控问题的负面新闻报道,各网站及客户端,和其他各类新媒体新应用平台,一律不得弹窗推送。如确需报道,只采用人民日报、新华社、央视以及卫健委、外交部等相关部门,湖北省及武汉市相关部门的权威信息。我办将加大力度巡查督查,如有发现违规弹窗推送行为,立即严肃处理。以上指令内容,务请落实属地责任和主体责任,迅速落实并严格保密。
(本条指令内容来自《纽约时报》报道)

新闻背景:

2019年12月30日晚,关于武汉出现“不明原因肺炎”的两份官方通知开始在网上流传。次日,第一财经发布报道《武汉不明原因肺炎已做好隔离,检测结果将第一时间对外公布》,首次在机构媒体上披露疫情。之后,多间媒体派记者赴武汉对“不明原因肺炎”进行报道,多起初期病例爆发地华南海鲜市场也在1月1日休市整顿。

据华中科技大学同济医学院附属协和医院的医生林羽对《中国新闻周刊》的回忆,疫情刚开始的时候,武汉市的策略都是“冷处理”。他所在的医院就通知,在没有单位授权的时候,不允许私自在公众平台谈论病情,不允许私自接受媒体采访,“整个就不让说”;武汉市中心医院眼科医生李文亮,因为在大学同学群里发消息警告说“华南水果海鲜市场确诊了7例SARS”而被警方训诫。

在媒体对“不明原因肺炎”进行追踪报道同时,宣传部门也迅速行动,对报道方向作出了指示:“以权威部门发布信息为准,不作无端猜测,不援引外媒报导,不关联非典,防止不实报导引起恐慌。” 在这一原则指导下,疫情初期媒体的报道多集中于强调“可防可控”和“未发现明确的人传人证据,未发现医务人员感染”,甚至在1月18日,武汉市百步亭社区还举行了“万家宴”活动。这一禁令和与此相关的一系列舆论导向,直接导致疫情错过了黄金防控期。

***

Early February: Death of Dr. Li Wenliang

The February 6 death of Dr. Li Wenliang—who had been admonished for sharing information about the new virus with medical colleagues—sparked days of mourning and rage online.

Regarding the death of Doctor Li Wenliang of Wuhan Central Hospital, rigidly adhere to standard sources. It is strictly forbidden for reports to use contributions from self-media, and sites may not use pop-up alerts, comment, or sensationalize. Safely control the temperature of interactive sections, do not set up special topic sections, gradually withdraw the topic from Hot Search lists, and strictly manage harmful information. (February 6, 2020) [Source]

To all district, county (and city) Cyberspace Administration bureaus: In accordance with the spirit of the February 7th Provincial Cyberspace Administration video conference, work directives for the current period are as follows: (1) precisely understand the complexity and severity of the past few days’ online rhetoric. Li Wenliang’s death has quickly become a trending topic online. “We must recognize with clear mind the butterfly effect, broken windows effect and snowball effect triggered by this event, and the unprecedented challenge that it has posed to our online opinion management and control work. All Cyberspace Administration bureaus must pay heightened attention to online opinion, and resolutely control anything that seriously damages party and government credibility and attacks the political system.” Guide commentary [on posts] about other manners that are cathartic in nature, paying close attention to both style and method. [Chinese] (This translation includes text originally published in The New York Times)

2月初:李文亮去世后的相关禁令(2条)

关于武汉市中心医院李文亮医生去世一事,要严格规范稿源,严禁使用自媒体稿件擅自报道,不得弹窗 PUSH,不评论,不炒作。互动环节稳妥控制热度,不设话题,逐步撤出热搜,严管有害信息。

武汉市中心医院李文亮医生去世一事只允许转载央视电视报道和央视新闻客户端内容。

根据2月7日省网信办视频例会精神,现就近期工作提示如下:一、准确把握网上舆情严峻复杂的形势日前,李文亮医生去世已迅速成为网络热点。我们要清醒认识到此事所引发的蝴蝶效应、破窗效应、雪球效应,对我们的网上舆论管控工作提出了前所未有的挑战。各地网信部门要高度关注网上舆情,对于严重损害党和政府公信力、矛头直指政治体制的,要坚决管控;在其他事情上对于宣泄性的要引导,注意方式方法。
(本条指令内容来自《纽约时报》报道)

新闻背景:

李文亮在疫情初期因在微信群中发出警告而被警方训诫,在签署《训诫书》后又重返工作岗位。1月8日,他在接诊一名患者后出现发热、咳嗽等症状,后在呼吸与重症医学科监护室接受隔离治疗,1月30日被确诊为新冠肺炎,并在2月7日凌晨病逝,年仅34岁。

李文亮签署的《训诫书》

李文亮在住院期间接收了《财新》的采访,他在采访中表示,是否给他平反已经不那么重要,因为真相比这更加重要,一个健康的社会不应该只有一种声音。

李文亮病逝掀起了新冠肺炎疫情以来中国全网范围最大的一次舆论海啸。人们在各类社交平台哀悼他的死,要求政府道歉,更罕见出现了争取“言论自由”的呼声。根据端传媒统计,在李文亮去世4小时内,微博话题#李文亮医生去世#获得了6.7亿阅读,73.7万讨论;#李文亮去世#收获了2.3亿阅读、20.9万讨论;话题#我要言论自由#收获了286.1万阅读、9684讨论。

宣传部门迅速出台指令,要求对李文亮去世相关新闻,“要严格规范稿源,严禁使用自媒体稿件擅自报道,不得弹窗 PUSH,不评论,不炒作。互动环节稳妥控制热度,不设话题,逐步撤出热搜,严管有害信息。”,沃民高科沃德网情研究院也在李文亮去世当天向“中央有关部门”报送了一份《重大网情专报》,提出了“肯定、追责、封堵、减负、恢复秩序、发布利好、保持定力”七点建议。

***

Early March: Whistleblower

In an interview with People (Renwu 人物), Dr. Ai Fen recalled being disciplined by hospital administrators after sharing information about a SARS-like virus spreading in Wuhan in late December:

Concerning the “whistle provider” and this type of reporting, do not place on home pages and remove if there.

Reference links:

The Great Whistle provider! Should be received by top leaders. https://www.toutiao.com/i1660753158812676/

The first to discover the virus, only she is the whistle provider! http://baijiahao.baidu.com/s?id=1660752612649836777

People reported today on whistle provider Ai Fen, director of the ER at Wuhan Central Hospital. The introduction has been cut. https://www.toutiao.com/i1660744486232078/

The Whistleblower: If these doctors could get prompt alerts, maybe this wouldn’t have happened http://www.yyrw.org.cn/e/action/ShowInfo.php?classid=5&id=2256&from=timeline&isappinstalled=0″ (March 10, 2020) [Source]

3月初指令:严查涉发哨人报道(1条)

涉发哨人,此类报道不上首页,如有请撤下。
参考链接:《伟大的发哨人!应该被接见》、《病毒最初被发现时,她才是发哨人!》、《〈人物〉杂志今天报道了一个发哨人,武汉市中心医院急诊科主任艾芬》、《吹哨子的人:如果这些医生都能够得到及时的提醒,或许就不会有这一天》。

新闻背景:

3月10日,中国媒体《人物》杂志在其微信公众号发布了文章《发哨子的人》,通过采访的形式记叙了武汉市中心医院急诊科主任艾芬的经历。2019年12月30日,艾芬曾拿到过一份不明肺炎病人的病毒检测报告,她用红色圈出“SARS冠状病毒”字样,当大学同学问起时,她将这份报告拍下来传给了这位同是医生的同学。当晚,这份报告传遍了武汉的医生圈,转发这份报告的人就包括最初8位被警方训诫的医生。

武汉市中心医院急诊科主任艾芬(图:《人物》杂志)

然而,《发哨子的人》一文在10日中午前被全网删除,但中国网民开始了一场“反审查接力”,他们用火星文、盲文、emoji、摩斯电码、篆书、文言文等规避审查等方式转载这篇文章,也有不少媒体以转述、报道等方式,间接介绍这篇文章的内容,掀起了新冠疫情以来最大的一场“反审查”的线上运动。

***

Early June: Walk Back on “Street Vendor Economy”

After Premier Li Keqiang posited that the “street vendor economy” might be able to spark China’s post-COVID economic recovery, the phrase caught fire online, until Beijing authorities decided that street stalls were unbecoming of the capital city:

All previously posted content on the “street vendor economy” must be deleted. Please do not hype further. (June 5, 2020) [Source]

6月初指令:不炒作“地摊经济”(1条)

已发的有关“地摊经济”内容要清理删除,不要再炒作。

新闻背景:

5月28日,在今年“两会”后的总理记者会上,中国国务院总理李克强披露,中国当前有6亿人口的每个月收入只有1000元人民币左右,又表示在当前形势下,“保就业”是头等大事,并赞扬中国西部有城市通过流动商贩的摊位解决了大量就业。6月1日,他在考察山东烟台一处老旧小区时又表示:“地摊经济、小店经济是就业岗位的重要来源,是人间的烟火,和‘高大上’一样,是中国的生机。”

推特网友@撸一串儿 以此创作政治漫画《短命地摊》

由此,“地摊经济”一词成为网络热议话题,各家互联网企业也推出政策扶持小商贩的发展,中国许多城市也出现了摆地摊的风潮。然而,这一情况持续不到一周时间,6月6日《北京日报》就发表社论《地摊经济不适合北京》,称“地摊经济”于北京不仅不利于树立良好的首都形象和国家形象,也不利于促进经济高质量发展;次日,中央电视台也发表社论《地摊经济”不能一哄而起》,肯定了《北京日报》的观点。宣传部门此时也开始行动,在全网为“地摊经济”进行降温。

***

Late June: Shandong Village Relocations

In late June, a scandal rocked Shandong when a sociologist’s essay exposed how villagers had their homes razed as part of the provincial government’s “village consolidation” policy.

Notice:

From June 28 onward, all reports on village planning and construction must use the standard wording “building a beautiful and livable countryside,” and must no longer use phrases like “village consolidation.”

When propagating reports employing the concept of “rural community,” don’t touch on the spheres of village autonomy or rural administration. In general, don’t broaden the focus.

Rigorously follow authoritative information from authoritative departments on sensitive issues and mass incidents involving village abolition and consolidation, whole-village relocation, and rural building rights.

Increase management of online and self-media within the province, and WeChat, Weibo and media apps under the control of relevant departments. Strictly adhere to the new phrasing requirements. Existing content on “village consolidation” in all media and on all platforms should be pulled offstage. (June 30, 2020) [Source]

6月中下旬指令:勿再使用“合村并居”表述(1条)

1.从6月28日起,凡涉及村庄规划建设的报道,一律使用“建设美丽宜居乡村”作为规范用语,不再使用“合村并居”等表述。

2.在宣传报道中使用“农村社区”概念时,不要涉及村民自治、乡村治理领域,一般不扩大外延。

3.涉及村庄撤并、整村土地流转,农村宅基地确权等敏感问题及群体性事件,严格依据权威部门发布的权威信息。

4.加大对省内网络媒体、自媒体及省直有关部门“两微一端”的管理,严格按照新的表述口径,各媒体各平台原有的涉“合村并居”稿件沉入后台。

新闻背景:

合村并居是一项农村改造政策,其主要内容包括:拆除农民住房、合并原有村庄,建立新型农村社区,让农民集中住进楼房。根据官方说法,推行该政策主要是为了解决一些农村村级组织运转成本高、基层负担重,空心村比例高、土地浪费严重,基础设施建设成本高、公共服务水平低等问题。

但今年6月以来,山东省在推行“合村并居”过程中进行“一刀切”,违背民众意愿、造成家庭财政负担,滋扰村民、对村民“威逼利诱”等现象经媒体报道后引发舆论关注和热议。

其后,宣传部门发布了相关禁令,同时《人民日报》也发表评论文章,炮轰山东“一些地方领导干部”出手急、简单粗暴,不顾民众感受,把好事办成怨声载道的蠢事,随后山东省主要领导也表态,称“要充分尊重农民意愿,搬不搬、建不建,群众说了算”。

***

November: U.S. Presidential Election

The Chinese government stayed silent on the United States’ election until November 13, ten days after the election. The media likewise stayed silent.

Regarding the U.S. presidential election, all media platforms must strictly follow unified reporting. Relevant reports must be based on standardized sources such as Xinhua. Do not republish foreign media without authorization, and follow-up reports are not allowed. Media commentary must be consistent with [the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson’s] statement on the relevant situation, and must not aggravate excessive emotions or hype public opinion. Online interactive platforms must guard against any anti-U.S., boycott the U.S., or other inflammatory and actionable messages. (November 3, 2020) [Source]

11月3日指令:关于美国大选的报道规范(1条)

关于美国总统大选,各媒体平台需严格按照统一安排的报道。相关报道以新华等规范稿源为主,不得擅自转载外媒、不得跟进报导。媒体评论提法要符合我发言人就相关情况的表态,不得激化过激情绪、防止舆论炒热走偏。网络互动平台注意严防反美、抵制美国等煽动性、行动性信息。

新闻背景:

在中美关系面临历史性转折的时期,这一次美国大选也备受中国人的关注,因此也成为了宣传部门需要把控舆论走向的重点事件之一。

此次宣传部的指令基本于重大国际事件处置方法相一致——“以新华等规范稿源为主,不得擅自转载外媒、不得跟进报导。媒体评论提法要符合我发言人就相关情况的表态”,但在中美关系紧张的格局,尤其强调了“不得激化过激情绪、防止舆论炒热走偏。网络互动平台注意严防反美、抵制美国等煽动性、行动性信息。”

真理部年度事件:《网络信息内容生态治理规定》实施

3月1日,《网络信息内容生态治理规定》,正式生效实施。这部法规规定了服务平台及内容创作者合法发表言论的范围,同时亦鼓励他们创作符合中国官方价值观的内容。有媒体称这规定为是中国迄今推出的最为全面、最为严厉的网络审查和信息控制举措之一。

《网络信息内容生态治理规定》将网络信息分为三类:

  • “鼓励制作、复制、发布”的信息。主要是党的宣传和所谓“正能量”内容,例如“宣传习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想”、“宣传党的理论路线方针政策和中央重大决策部署”,“展示经济社会发展亮点”、“展现中华民族昂扬向上精神风貌”、“有助于引导群众形成共识”、“有助于提高中华文化国际影响力”等内容;
  • “不得制作、复制、发布”的“违法信息”。例如,危害国家安全、损害国家荣誉和利益的、散布谣言,扰乱经济秩序和社会秩序的等內容;
  • “防范和抵制制作、复制、发布”的“不良信息”。例如,使用夸张标题,炒作绯闻、丑闻、劣迹等的、不当评述自然灾害、重大事故等灾难的等內容;

***

Sources: