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China's Communist Party

China’s party officials warned not to cross ‘red lines’ while using WeChat

Disciplinary watchdog identifies eight prohibited behaviours

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 7:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 10:09pm

Disparaging party policies, sharing pornography and spreading rumours are among eight “red lines” Chinese Communist Party officials must not cross while using WeChat, a popular social media platform, the ruling party’s disciplinary watchdog has instructed.

As with many other large organisations that seek to moderate their members’ social media presence, the 88-million-member Chinese Communist Party has been attempting to control the words and acts of its officials on WeChat, the Tencent Technologies mobile platform that has 889 million active users.

According to a notice published on a WeChat account run by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the anti-graft agency run by Wang Qishan, the other prohibited behaviours are accepting electronic “red envelopes” of money transfers, vote-rigging, leaking confidential information, opening online shops and publishing “inappropriate” statements.

While US President Donald Trump is known for delivering policy message via his Twitter account, China’s top leaders are still largely distancing themselves from social media platforms. At the same time, Chinese government agencies and local authorities are rushing to create accounts on platforms such as WeChat and Weibo to deliver information directly to the public.

Chinese residents increasingly rely on such mobile platforms to socialise and work.

WeChat is particularly popular with mobile phone users for its chat, phone call, picture sharing, payment and shopping functions.

In warning Communist Party officials, the notice also detailed previous offenders who crossed the red lines. Those offenders were punished by verbal warnings, job dismissals and even imprisonment.

China’s WeChat censoring ‘sensitive’ photos, not just text, study shows

According to the article, an unnamed local police chief republished an article questioning the value of “one country, two systems”, China’s state policy in dealing with Hong Kong, on his WeChat account, and received disciplineary punishment as a result.

In another case, a local government employee in Hubei accidentally published a pornographic picture to a chat group of 500 people, most of them are public service staff, and the employee was demoted within 18 hours.

Officials were also told not to spread rumours or circulate unverified information to avoid negative social impact. They are prohibited from receiving online red packets regardless of the financial amount or purpose for which it is transferred.

Cadres at grassroots levels were also warned not to send any “red packets” during election periods.

Leaking state secrets or internal government office information and expressions of inappropriate opinion via channels such as WeChat were strictly prohibited and would be punished with severe discipline, the notice said.