Sensationalism a 'worrying trend'
Guangdong party chief Wang Yang warned yesterday of 'a worrying trend' of sensationalism in reports by the local media, generally considered the most progressive on the mainland.
The comment was widely seen as an attempt to rein in speculation that controls on the media were being loosened and that the provincial publicity department had been ordered to stop imposing restrictions on news reports.
The speculation followed a series of surprisingly outspoken news reports, including a story by Xinhua on Monday about hundreds of villagers from Heshan protesting outside the provincial government headquarters in Guangzhou. Last week, the Nanfang Daily, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party's Guangdong provincial committee, ran a story about a protest against illegal land sales by about 400 people from Wukan village in eastern Guangdong's Lufeng county.
During a work meeting on cultural reform, Wang told cadres on Tuesday that he fully supported the media playing a watchdog role but it should also give guidance. '[The media] should report more on good people with positive outcomes instead of running sensationalised reports to magnify the dark side of society,' Wang said. 'After all, a good social atmosphere is induced by praise.
'Otherwise, in the long run, readers will be desensitised by eye-catching stories and this will also reflect adversely on the media's class and taste.
'My mother, who is 80 years old, often calls me from our hometown warning me of one thing: 'Wang Yang, you must take care of yourself whenever you step outside the door.' Why is there such a concept? Guangdong is perceived to be a chaotic and messy place in my hometown.'
Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University in Hong Kong, said: 'Wang Yang is very concerned about how Guangdong is being perceived and there might be too many reports on undesirable aspects. If this is so, it goes against the purpose of his desired liberal image.
'The decision to liberalise in China often encounters criticism and generates second thoughts, hesitation and restraint.
'Wang Yang wants to present himself as a modern leader with a liberal image as a foundation for the advancement of his political career in contrast to [his perceived rival] Bo Xilai in Chongqing. But liberalisation in China might have undesirable effects.'