Nelson Mandela

Beijing bans ‘sensitive topics’ during Mandela funeral coverage

Government orders Chinese media not to highlight the late leader’s democracy comments, the Dalai Lama or ties between Taiwan and South Africa

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 5:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 6:01pm

China’s propaganda authorities have issued a series of orders, warning national and local media to toe the line ahead of the funeral of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

"All media and websites must be prudent in selecting the materials and [must] report appropriately,” read the orders from the ministry, which were confirmed by two local media sources.

The propaganda department issues orders to newspapers, magazines and websites on a routine basis. It requires the news media to step back on politically sensitive topics and highlight the contents which authorities favour.

More than 70 national leaders, from US President Barack Obama to Iran’s Hassan Rowhani were flying to South Africa to pay tribute to one of the world’s great peacemakers at the Soccer City Stadium in Soweto.

Chinese vice-president Li Yuanchao, as a special representative of President Xi Jinping, is attending the funeral. (Watch the livestream of Mandela's memorial service here.)

The ministry ordered local media not to highlight Mandela’s remarks on human rights and democracy issues.

“All posts and comments on Weibo and blogs that take advantage of the funeral of Mandela to attack our political systems and state leaders must be deleted immediately,” the papers stated.

The orders also warned local media not to report on the relationship between Mandela and the Dalai Lama, and not to cover Taiwan-related issues during the funeral. Taiwan is a former diplomatic ally of South Africa.

Issues involving Tibet and Taiwan have long been deemed sensitive topics by Beijing.

The Dalai Lama, who has twice been unable to obtain a visa to South Africa, will not attend the funeral. “Logistically, it’s impossible at this time,” a spokesman was quoted by wire agencies as saying.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hoping to send a delegation to the funeral, according to The China Post, citing a ministry source.

The propaganda department also ordered local media not to broach Mandela’s married life. He had three wives, and one of them had been subject to rumours of adultery.

"We were told not [print] gossip. But content on the positive China-South Africa relationship are welcomed,” said an editor with a local media outlet.