Are thank-you-CCP quotes in official news coverage “fake news” too?

In a tongue-in-cheek critique recalling the recent debate in China over “fake news” and a now-questioned news report about “cardboard dumplings” from Beijing TV, Hong Kong journalist Leung Man-to (梁文道) suggested in a mainland editorial today that party media reconsider use of improbable thank-you-Communist-Party quotes in news coverage of emergency situations.

Leung’s editorial referred to state television coverage of the recent rescue of mine workers in Henan Province, in which one miner was quoted as saying after emerging from the blackness: “I thank the Central Party! I thank the State Council! I thank the government of Henan Province! I thank the people of the nation!”

Chinese media, past and present, are replete with quotes of this kind, a practice that prompted the outspoken Southern Weekend to ridicule official news following major floods back in 1998. The quote in question then was: “The Communist Party is the best!” Southern Weekend drew sharp criticism from the Central Propaganda Department’s News Commentary Group for the editorial.

In today’s editorial Leung said of the more recent Henan quote:

For a Hong Konger like me, untrained [in the ways of the party], this quote goes directly against basic human character. Why? Because if a normal person is suddenly rescued after being trapped at the bottom of a mine for three days and not knowing whether they will live or die, won’t they be too moved for words, or calling out for their mothers, their wives and their children? How is it conceivable that the first words to come out of his mouth are words of thanks for the Central Party? No one [in the state hierarchy] is left out of his thank you, and what’s more, [the thank you] proceeds down from the Central Party to the national people. The order of this is airtight, not seeming at all like what a disaster victim just rescued would say.

In a reference to Hu Jintao’s media policy of the Three Closenesses, which calls for intensified commercialization of the media and “media products” that are less stodgy and more relevant to the people, Leung Man-to suggested that if the television journalist “directed” the source to say the “Four Thanks” (as he clearly suspects), they should “go back to school.”

“They should know that today the party rules for the people, that even media at various levels [across China] are busy trying to get close to the people (贴近平民), and that people have already grown accustomed to a more humanistic way of seeing the world.”

[Posted by David Bandurski, August 9, 2007, 2:53pm]

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