I picked up Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on Saturday and read this on the front page:
Xi demands all media uphold the leadership and the will of the Communist Party
After choking on my coffee, I read the article which explained that President Xi was speaking about media outlets in Mainland China (and not directly Hong Kong).
Still both my 8th grade civics class and several viewing of All the President’s Men, have convinced me that the media should be questioning, critical, a bit rowdy and — above all — independent.
So when a one-party state calls on its country’s media to “embody the Party’s will and safeguard the Party’s authority,” I furrow my brow and think: “Hey, that’s not the purpose of the media! The media is supposed to be a watchdog. Let’s send in side-burned 1976 Robert Redford and long-haired Dustin Hoffman to sort this all out!”
President Xi spent last week personally reminding Xinhua, The People’s Daily, and CCTV (China Central Television) that the Party demands their unwavering support. During these visits the media outlets all bent over backward to pledge their devotion. CCTV greeted him with this:
CCTV’s surname is ‘The Party,’ [We are] absolutely loyal, Ready for your inspection.
Xinhua also created a special video which it screened for President Xi, a video that is meant to explain a recent government policy The Four Comprehensives:
After viewing this video I now know that not only does China need 1976 Redford and Hoffman, but also the 1970s children’s TV creatives behind School House Rock. An all-powerful state media should be able to put together propaganda that does not include either a rapping grandfather or a chorus with the lyrics “Party-building the key!” and “reform for y’all!”
The clamp-down on Mainland Chinese media freedoms comes at an already worrying time for Hong Kong. The territory was promised “One-Country, Two-Systems” and related freedoms (including press and speech freedoms) until 2047. And yet several Hong Kong booksellers known for publishing salacious stories about key Chinese governmental figures have been taken by Mainland authorities and are being held in China without due process of any sort and in violation of Hong Kong law.
This is absolutely distressing to many here.
Will Chinese state media try to comfort Hong Kong residents by producing another colorful cartoon video? In this one the grandpa could sing to the little girl about the erosion of Hong Kong freedoms and it could be called How Hong Kong learned to stop worrying and love President Xi.
Hint for President Xi and the Party: Your Four Comprehensives policy calls for rooting out corruption and increasing legal transparency. If this is really a sincere desire, a free media would help acheive this goal.
Of course free media can also give you Donald Trump.
An absolutely distressing discussion for another day.