One man's scoop is another's state secret

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 July, 2009, 12:00am

Does the article above contain a state secret?

On Wednesday, the China Securities Journal published a story saying a source had told a forum the mainland's gross domestic product had grown 7.9 per cent in the second quarter and 7.1 per cent in the first half - a day before the data's official release.

Peeved at a competitor's premature articulation, a Reuters reporter asked Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang if he would comment on the 'leakage' of national secrets - China's key economic data - to the media.

Mr Qin looked up and tried to make eye contact with the reporter.

'I feel great regret that, as a reporter from a 'century-old store', you cannot even tell the difference between publishable economic data and national secrets,' he said. 'For a professional business data releaser ... I really feel you should do some homework.'

Some reporters laughed, and the irony was clear: just what does Beijing - which has jailed dissidents over information that, to many people, would not even be close to harming national security - call a state secret?

Reuters raised the same question earlier yesterday when Li Xiaochao, of the National Bureau of Statistics, released the data in question. Mr Li said he had noticed data had been reported by some media, and his bureau would investigate how and why this 'leak' had happened.

Intriguingly, the inquiry comes as a little-known government agency has embarked on the biggest effort in more than 20 years to protect state secrets.