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China paper says regulation must 'keep pace with times'
by Staff Writers
Guangzhou, China (AFP) Jan 10, 2013


Chinese state media mocks government officialese
Beijing (AFP) Jan 10, 2013 - Chinese state media turned on the government's own use of language Thursday, mocking a list of "repulsive" official cliches submitted by social media users.

The public shaming of bureaucrat-speak -- hosted on the microblog of the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily -- came after China's new leaders slammed the culture of long speeches and meetings and urged better governance.

"No speech is not 'important', no applause is not 'warm'," the People's Daily said on its Twitter-like Weibo account, as it poked fun at officialese and invited followers to share the phrases they found most irritating.

"No leader is not 'highly valued', no visit is not 'friendly', no accomplishment is not 'satisfactory', no achievements are not 'tremendous'," it continued.

Commenters ridiculed officials' tendency to give non-answers and criticised tiresome terms thrown around in meetings that dragged on.

"The most common one is 'relevant department'. When it's good news there's a specific department, when it's bad news it's a 'relevant department'," wrote a user named Suzhiqiang.

"The most annoying official-speak is, 'Next I would like to add a few words'... then half an hour later he is still talking'," said another called Arnold.

A user named Romeo provided a template for meetings: "Vigorously do this... Thoroughly do that... Don't do this... Raise high... Speed up... Push forward... Persevere... Guarantee..."

But in turn others derided the effort to put down the officialese.

A poster using the handle "One Who Probes" pointed out: "These official phrases, cliches, empty words, lies, didn't we learn them all from certain newspapers?"

There were around 4,300 submissions as of late Thursday, and a list of comments compiled by a local newspaper was reposted by several outlets, including the state news agency Xinhua.

The publicity around the forum complemented official warnings sounded by the ruling party's new leadership under Xi Jinping, installed in November.

His first remarks as party chief -- a plain-spoken 20-minute address -- contained little of the Communist terminology or references to socialist figures that filled the speeches of his predecessor Hu Jintao.

A few weeks later state media reported the new top brass as urging party officials to put an end to "pointless" meetings, speeches and other time-wasting events.

One user named Dalizhangxiaofan posted: "If officials aren't allowed to speak in cliches and officialese, what else will they have to say?"

A Chinese newspaper at the centre of protests over censorship said Thursday that Communist Party regulation of the media must "keep pace with the times", in its first edition since the row began.

"It's fundamental that the party regulates the press, but its method of regulation needs to be advanced to keep pace with the times," the Southern Weekly said in an editorial, without referring directly to the controversy.

The row at the liberal paper, sparked by the replacement of an article urging greater rights protection with one praising the ruling party, has seen demonstrators mass outside its headquarters in the southern city of Guangzhou.

At their peak the protests, the first against press censorship in two decades, drew hundreds of people and the campaign built momentum on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, backed by the blogosphere and celebrities with millions of followers.

But the popular newspaper came out on Thursday as scheduled, after reports that staff and authorities had reached a deal that officials would no longer directly interfere in content before publication.

Only a few demonstrators gathered outside the newspaper's main office and reporters saw two -- one of them wheelchair-bound -- put into a vehicle and driven away, in an indication that authorities' tolerance for the rallies was waning.

There was speculation that as part of the agreement, Southern Weekly would not give its account of the controversy.

In the event the editorial on press freedom was printed in small text, as a commentary about another article on media management reprinted from the People's Daily, the party's mouthpiece.

The Southern Weekly said that because of the rising popularity of the Internet, China needed an "updated method of managing public opinion". It called for "reasonable and constructive media" to be protected.

It used phrases commonly employed by the communist leadership and did not directly criticise the government's handling of the controversy.

"Chinese media can never be independent of the government... but the propaganda department should not censor in advance," said Min Jiang, a professor of journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

The deal "seemed to mark progress" in setting limits for government censorship, he added.

Reports said Hu Chunhua, the top communist official in Guangdong province where the newspaper is based and a rising star in the party, had stepped into the row to mediate.

Thursday's edition led with a two-page investigation into a fire at an orphanage in the central province of Henan, and devoted pages three and four to a review of the most influential legal cases of 2012.

"I don't think there will be any results from this," said a student buying a copy in Guangzhou, referring to the protests.

Southern Weekly's investigative reports have made it one of the country's biggest-selling papers with a keen following among urban intellectuals, but also left it subject to periodic purges.

All Chinese media organisations receive instructions from government propaganda departments, which suppress news seen by the party as "negative".

But the censorship of Southern Weekly was seen as unusually direct, although the original article soon emerged on Chinese social media.

Former journalists at the newspaper, as well as intellectuals and students published open letters calling for the resignation of Tuo Zhen, the propaganda official said to have been responsible.

The controversy appeared to spread to the capital, where the publisher of the Beijing News -- part-owned by the same group -- threatened to resign in the face of demands from propaganda authorities, according to accounts posted online by newspaper staff.

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