‘Make it short!’: reports of verbose official’s dressing down censored

Articles about party boss's rebuke by a top leader for his wordy speech removed from internet

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 2:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 2:15pm

Censors have deleted reports of how an official was publicly upbraided by one of the mainland’s top leaders as he was about to launch into a long, pre-prepared speech.

“Make it short!” Wang Qishan, the head of the mainland’s anti-corruption watchdog, was reported as telling the official at a panel meeting at the National People’s Congress.

Wang had just given a speech about supervising the work of the Communist Party when the Jilin province party boss Wang Rulin responded by referring to prepared notes.

“How could you have such a long, printed response when you didn’t know my speech? Wouldn’t you say this is formalism? No need for you to read that anymore,” Wang is reported to have said.

Formulism is party jargon referring to officials who strictly ahere to style and ceremony rather than substance and is one of the “undesirable work styles” the government has vowed to stamp out.

The comments during the meeting on Monday were reported by the China Business Journal and the Hong Kong-based Sing Tao Daily and were picked up be several media outlets.

The internet reports were widely shared online, but all traces of the discussions have now been removed by the censors.

Searches for the stories on Baidu, Sina Weibo and other internet platforms drew a blank.

“No provincial propaganda official would allow a story of their own party secretary being humiliated to flow around the internet, unless he wants to be fired,” said a senior editor at a state-run media outlet who asked not to be named. “Just a call from provincial propaganda departments asking for some ‘co-ordination’ can solve this problem. It’s a tacit understanding that news like this is among the must-delete category.”

The New York Times China blog cited an anonymous Beijing-based web editor who said the reason the stories had been deleted was because the information was too sensitive and Jilin officials felt it was too humiliating.

“After we republished it, the impact was very large,” the editor said. “Then the internet management office came to us and demanded that we take it down.”

A news editor at the website Tencent, who asked not to be named, said: “We received orders to delete that news, but they didn’t tell us why. It’s possible that the information office of the State Council just deleted from their end, or they asked the news outlet which published this story in the first place to inform other outlets to delete it.”

The Jilin province panel discussion was a closed-door session, which only allowed several photographers from state-run media to take photos at the start. Therefore, it is possible the news was leaked by delegates.

It is rare for disagreements or arguments among party leaders to be aired publicly by state media.

Wang, however, has in the past shown facets in public of his own thoughts and personality.

He revealed last week at the National People’s Congress that he watched the popular South Korean TV drama My Love from the Star, about an alien who falls in love with an actress.

An unnamed source also told the Hong Kong-based magazine Phoenix Weekly in December that Wang was a fan of the American TV show about the ruthless world of high politics, House of Cards.

Additional reporting by Angela Meng