Olympics-China Media Watch: Re-education scrubbed from Web, mostly

Bob Dietz called attention to the Chinese propaganda department’s recent 21-point press directive, first reported by the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. The whole thing in English and Chinese is posted today at Berkeley’s China Digital Times. Among the orders given to the domestic media during the Olympic Games is that they are not to report on the protest zones set up at three places around Beijing. This apparently holds true even if they are empty, which they are.

It is no surprise, then, that the news of Wang Xiuying and Wu Dianyuan is hard to come by in China. The two women in their late 70s applied to protest, but were instead sentenced to a year of re-education through labor. If you do a search on their names in the Chinese search engine Baidu, you will find that foreign reports in Chinese on the campaigning grandmothers (by BBC, Human Rights in China and the Wall Street Journal) have been picked up by bloggers and online commentators and posted to Chinese Web portals like Sina and Sohu. But the posts have largely been deleted. (See more on that below.)

And as we know, Chinese media is forbidden to cover it. So they don’t, right?

Well, every rule has its exception. And for the period of the Olympic Games at least, Beijing-based financial news magazine Caijing has shown itself to be that exception again and again

Under the headline “Official responds to the case of the old women protesters sentenced to re-education through labor,” Caijing today reports on a press conference held by Beijing Olympic Committee official Wang Wei.

The magazine’s online report doesn’t take an adversarial tone. Its report gives a lot of space to Wang’s well-rehearsed answers to reporters’ questions; he says they were sentenced for disturbing public order by illegally protesting at Tiananmen Square. And then it repeats the government’s disclosure that none of those applying for protest permits had actually received them.

But just by reporting the news, Caijing walks up to the line.

It’s worth noting that the magazine has a relatively small, erudite audience that is likely to be familiar with what’s being reported by the foreign media. And it is willing to wager that the Party will let it keep giving its readers what they expect, so long as it doesn’t go too far.

Another remaining reference to the grandmothers’ labor camp judgment is just an oversight by the censors, I’m sure. A Shanghai-based blogger calling himself Jiadi writes a post on Sina called “Our government has power.” Below a photo of the two fearsome ladies is this little ditty. (It sort of rhymes in Chinese.)

Our government has power, 

A protest is open.

78-year-old women forbidden,

Due to labor re-education sentence.

In related news on the censorship front, the clever bloggers at Danwei have noticed that from China, a search for the words China or Beijing in the Google news search yields absolutely nothing. Maybe, they surmise, Google has noticed that there’s no interesting news in China for the duration of the Olympics.