Media warned to avoid politicising game

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 July, 1999, 12:00am

THE Government's propaganda department had warned state media not to politicise this morning's women's World Cup soccer final amid fears it could set off student protests after the game.

'Official media were asked to toe the line when reporting on the game. The line is that no matter if the Chinese team wins or loses, our reports can only focus on the 'spirit' of the Chinese team,' a senior editor in Beijing said.

'We were told the game is a sensitive one, given the high sentiment of football fans in Beijing. The official guidelines said related coverage must be handled carefully to avoid chaos and social instability.

'No report would be allowed to link the match to the stormy Sino-US relations in the wake of the Nato bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade,' the editor said, adding that propaganda officials feared that politicised reports would rekindle anti-US emotions among university students.

Students in the country started a spate of anti-US protests after Nato bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on May 7. Demonstrators stoned the US Embassy in Beijing and burned the US consulate's residence in Chengdu, Sichuan.

'Though many students have left campuses for home after their examinations, there are still large numbers remaining on campuses for training and rehearsals for celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China on October 1,' the editor said.

The editor said the media had been told to emphasise the 'spirit' of the Chinese team which embodied an unswerving belief in seeking glory for the country, discipline 'as sturdy as steel' and solidarity 'as strong as a rock'.

Officials are worried students could stage protests or march to the US Embassy - no matter which team wins the match. University students took to the streets in 1979 when the Chinese men's team beat the Iraqi team in a World Cup pre-qualifying match in Beijing.

Public security officials in Beijing were on alert against any disturbances after the match ended this morning.