No criticism of Maoism: Dubious 'media guidelines from censors' circulate internet

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 March, 2013, 1:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

A list of purported new guidelines for Chinese media banning criticism of former leader Mao Zedong was circulated online during the weekend, causing cheer among leftists and disdain among liberals. 

The guidelines ban statements that criticise Mao and call for the removal of journalists and educators who are not loyal to the party. 

While the BBC said it corrobated their authencity, several sources contacted by the Post in national media outlets could not confirm the existence of such guidelines, which only circulated on leftist websites maintained by people nostalgic of China's "red" past under Chairman Mao. As such, they could speak more of the aspirations of a minority of die-hard leftists than about China's new media environment only one month into Xi Jinping's presidency.

The text originated from the nationalistic China Mainstream Culture website and was picked up by the leftist Red Song Society forum, then circulated on Sina Weibo. The entire website where the original post appeared has since been taken down, mentions on other sites and many Weibo comments have been deleted.

The website claims that the text is an account of a person present at a regional meeting at which the "spirit" of a meeting at the Communist Party's Central Propaganda Department was passed on to the local level throughout the country. The Propaganda Department is the party's highest censoring body and issues detailed reporting guidelines and embargoes on a daily basis.

"From now on, no criticism of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism can be allowed to openly appear in the media," the account reads. These theories were the foundation of China's political system and could not "be casually disavowed by some people".

"All the media in China, no matter whether they are old print media or new media, should be mouthpieces for the party, mouthpieces for the people."

The new policies should bring about a "change of the guard" in the industry, according to the transcript.

The publishing licence of media outlets that act "against the interests of the party and the people" should be withdrawn.

Outspoken journalists, who "disparage" the nation, should not be allowed to work in the industry. The guiding principle should be "change the opinion or replace the person".

Such people should also not be allowed to educate the next generation of China's reporters and editors. "People with a confused mindset and chaotic opinions should not be allowed to teach journalism at universities."

The transcript echoed Xi's call for a new sense of national self-confidence. "Recently the US Department of Education quoted Mao Zedong online, the result was a national backlash [in the US]. Here we champion Lincoln's quotes everywhere and everyone silently accepts it. Should this not be cause for reflection?"

Readers of the nationalistic website welcomed the regulations. When asked by the Red Song Society website about their emotional reaction to the text, the overwhelming majority of its readers (595 out of 696) chose "happy," before the post was taken down on Sunday.

"This is the right approach," one person commented. "But the intensity is not big enough. Those opposing Mao should be exposed! This will benefit public criticism."

Voices on Weibo were more critical. "Soon Romania will reintroduce Ceausescu's thought, and Putin and Medvedev will prepare to bring back Leninism. At least this time, China is first."

"People who start by driving backwards will not get very far."

"The Chinese government's suppression of the freedom of the press hasn't changed," Teng Biao, a Beijing-based legal scholar told the Post. "But the traditional methods of suppression are unable to keep up with attacks from the new media," he said. "The hysteria of class struggle and those ossified ideological slogans, the scandalous history of which we now know more and more has become embarrassing."