How Party Censorship Spoiled Political Debate at China's Annual Parliament

By Bao Tong in Radio Free Asia. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, former political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.

If proverbs are shorthand for real life, then this year's parliamentary sessions were the proverbial pot of congee that is fouled by a single rat dropping.

The congee, of course, refers to the annual meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) [held from March 3-15].

And the rat dropping is the list of 21 banned topics issued by the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party's central propaganda department to journalists covering the parliamentary meetings.

They weren't allowed to write about smog, although it's clearly the talk of the whole country.

Neither were they allowed to write about the economy, other than to say nice things about it. Doubts and other news was a no-go area.

Even tighter strictures were laid on the reporting of religion. For example, they couldn't criticize or question the removal of crosses from thousands of churches across a single province, which I imagine is supposed to be a commendable feat.

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