Chinese press forbidden from commenting on key Premier Wen speech

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao marked the end of this year’s National People’s Congress with a press conference in which he urged China to press ahead with political reform to avoid “historical tragedy” like the Cultural Revolution.

Ahead of the event China’s Central Propaganda Department issued strict directives to journalists reporting on the event. China Digital Times collects and translates these directives from the department nicknamed the Ministry of Truth.

Central Propaganda Department: To all newspapers. Regarding Premier Wen’s press conference tomorrow, only general reports from Xinhua can be used. It is forbidden to arbitrarily add content, and extended commentaries are strictly forbidden.


Dissident artist calls for openness over Shanghai fire victims

Outspoken dissident artist Ai Weiwei has launched an online campaign asking the Chinese government to publicly release the names of the victims of a fire that destroyed a Shanghai tower block on November 15. His Google Docs “Citizens Investigation,” is inviting people to confirm the deceased’s name, age, gender and location in the building when it caught fire, by 7 December. That page is blocked in China.

At least 58 people perished when the 28-storey tower was engulfed in flames earlier this month. Authorities have identified 57 of the victims, but will not release all their names unless their families agree, according to Xinhua, China’s state news agency.

Ai, though, wants the names made public. “I’m doing this because every incident in China, whether it’s an earthquake or a mine collapse or a fire, they never release the names,” he told The Telegraph.

In 2009, Ai led a campaign to name the thousands of students who died when their schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

The Shanghai fire, which is being blamed on construction work that was going at the time, is a sensitive issue here. China Digital Times earlier reported that the Shanghai government warned media not to “publicise or hype” the fire, later pulling one magazine, China Management Report, off the racks after it ran an investigative piece.