Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Coronavirus: Muzzled Chinese media finds way to get around censors

Caixin publisher Hu Shuli. Picture: Bloomberg
Caixin publisher Hu Shuli. Picture: Bloomberg

At least half the information China’s leading media outfit ­Caixin unearthed in Wuhan has been suppressed, according to the editor who oversaw its investigation of the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’d say we have reached 75 to 80 per cent (of the truth). And what has been published is around 30 to 40 per cent,” said Gao Yu in a Mandarin podcast ­released by Caixin, which confirmed the extraordinary censorship imposed on ­Chinese journalists.
His frank admission about what the four-person team could not report was itself expunged from an accompanying English-language transcript published by Caixin. Despite the systemic difficulties of operating in a media environment overseen by the Communist Party’s powerful propaganda ­department, Caixin has earned international praise throughout the coronavirus outbreak for its ­reporting.

READ NEXT

The publication — backed by Tencent, the tech giant founded by China’s second-richest person, “Pony” Ma Huateng — was early to report on the “rumour-mongering” Wuhan doctors who late last year warned about a SARS-like virus, confirmed the existence of asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus in Hubei province and ­revealed that the province’s officials told a gene sequencing company to destroy samples of the new disease.
Overseeing these scoops — the latter of which was later deleted from Caixin’s website — is perhaps the most discussed person in Chinese media, Hu Shuli, the media outfit’s founder and publisher.
A party member, honorary doctor at Princeton and former journalist at the Worker’s Daily (where in the 1980s she interviewed the then vice-mayor of Xiamen, Xi Jinping), Hu was once described by The New Yorker as an “incurable muckraker”.
“If it’s not absolutely forbidden, we do it,” Hu has said of her journalistic approach.
She has pioneered a cool, dispassionate tone of reporting that, combined with an antenna for what can get past the censors, has seen her build China’s most ­inter­nationally respected publication.
Connections within China’s ruling elite, including with Vice-President Wang Qishan, are said to have helped. So have the brave journalists who work for her.
Gao Yu, speaking on Caixin’s podcast about his 76 days reporting in the quarantined city of Wuhan, recalled a hazardous trip he and fellow Caixin reporter Bao Zhiming made to the intensive care unit that was treating doctor Li Wenliang, who was punished for sharing information about the coronavirus that later killed him.
“There was lots of mixed information, and we decided to go to the hospital to check,” he said. They had run out of protective gear, but felt compelled to investigate.”
A security guard eventually ­removed them from the ICU about 1am, after asking: “Aren’t you afraid to die?”
Liu Hu, a Chinese journalist ­detained by police in Beijing in 2013, said Caixin’s “contacts” and Hu Shuli’s journalistic ideals had allowed it to negotiate China’s tight controls better than others.
“But there are fewer and fewer of such media in China allowed to still work professionally,” he said.
Even Caixin’s journalists struggle to share the information they unearth. In recent days, one of Gao’s four Caixin colleagues in its Wuhan team published a diary entry that documented an explosive exchange between hospital officials and Hubei party bosses in late January.
The journalist wrote that the president of Wuhan’s Central South Hospital was told by provincial leaders to keep in mind “political” considerations when speaking to a team from the World Health Organisation.
“I will tell the truth,” the hospital boss said in the diarised ­exchange, which appears to be part of Caixin’s unpublished trove. The online diary entry has since been deleted by China’s censors.

CHINA CORRESPONDENT
Will Glasgow is The Australian's China correspondent, based in Beijing. In 2018 he won the Keith McDonald Award for Business Journalist of the Year. He previously worked at The Australian Financial Review.

Caixin publisher Hu Shuli. Picture: Bloomberg
Caixin publisher Hu Shuli. Picture: Bloomberg

At least half the information China’s leading media outfit ­Caixin unearthed in Wuhan has been suppressed, according to the editor who oversaw its investigation of the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’d say we have reached 75 to 80 per cent (of the truth). And what has been published is around 30 to 40 per cent,” said Gao Yu in a Mandarin podcast ­released by Caixin, which confirmed the extraordinary censorship imposed on ­Chinese journalists.
His frank admission about what the four-person team could not report was itself expunged from an accompanying English-language transcript published by Caixin. Despite the systemic difficulties of operating in a media environment overseen by the Communist Party’s powerful propaganda ­department, Caixin has earned international praise throughout the coronavirus outbreak for its ­reporting.

READ NEXT

The publication — backed by Tencent, the tech giant founded by China’s second-richest person, “Pony” Ma Huateng — was early to report on the “rumour-mongering” Wuhan doctors who late last year warned about a SARS-like virus, confirmed the existence of asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus in Hubei province and ­revealed that the province’s officials told a gene sequencing company to destroy samples of the new disease.
Overseeing these scoops — the latter of which was later deleted from Caixin’s website — is perhaps the most discussed person in Chinese media, Hu Shuli, the media outfit’s founder and publisher.
A party member, honorary doctor at Princeton and former journalist at the Worker’s Daily (where in the 1980s she interviewed the then vice-mayor of Xiamen, Xi Jinping), Hu was once described by The New Yorker as an “incurable muckraker”.
“If it’s not absolutely forbidden, we do it,” Hu has said of her journalistic approach.
She has pioneered a cool, dispassionate tone of reporting that, combined with an antenna for what can get past the censors, has seen her build China’s most ­inter­nationally respected publication.
Connections within China’s ruling elite, including with Vice-President Wang Qishan, are said to have helped. So have the brave journalists who work for her.
Gao Yu, speaking on Caixin’s podcast about his 76 days reporting in the quarantined city of Wuhan, recalled a hazardous trip he and fellow Caixin reporter Bao Zhiming made to the intensive care unit that was treating doctor Li Wenliang, who was punished for sharing information about the coronavirus that later killed him.
“There was lots of mixed information, and we decided to go to the hospital to check,” he said. They had run out of protective gear, but felt compelled to investigate.”
A security guard eventually ­removed them from the ICU about 1am, after asking: “Aren’t you afraid to die?”
Liu Hu, a Chinese journalist ­detained by police in Beijing in 2013, said Caixin’s “contacts” and Hu Shuli’s journalistic ideals had allowed it to negotiate China’s tight controls better than others.
“But there are fewer and fewer of such media in China allowed to still work professionally,” he said.
Even Caixin’s journalists struggle to share the information they unearth. In recent days, one of Gao’s four Caixin colleagues in its Wuhan team published a diary entry that documented an explosive exchange between hospital officials and Hubei party bosses in late January.
The journalist wrote that the president of Wuhan’s Central South Hospital was told by provincial leaders to keep in mind “political” considerations when speaking to a team from the World Health Organisation.
“I will tell the truth,” the hospital boss said in the diarised ­exchange, which appears to be part of Caixin’s unpublished trove. The online diary entry has since been deleted by China’s censors.

CHINA CORRESPONDENT
Will Glasgow is The Australian's China correspondent, based in Beijing. In 2018 he won the Keith McDonald Award for Business Journalist of the Year. He previously worked at The Australian Financial Review.

Caixin publisher Hu Shuli. Picture: Bloomberg
Caixin publisher Hu Shuli. Picture: Bloomberg
At least half the information China’s leading media outfit ­Caixin unearthed in Wuhan has been suppressed, according to the editor who oversaw its investigation of the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’d say we have reached 75 to 80 per cent (of the truth). And what has been published is around 30 to 40 per cent,” said Gao Yu in a Mandarin podcast ­released by Caixin, which confirmed the extraordinary censorship imposed on ­Chinese journalists.
His frank admission about what the four-person team could not report was itself expunged from an accompanying English-language transcript published by Caixin. Despite the systemic difficulties of operating in a media environment overseen by the Communist Party’s powerful propaganda ­department, Caixin has earned international praise throughout the coronavirus outbreak for its ­reporting.

READ NEXT

The publication — backed by Tencent, the tech giant founded by China’s second-richest person, “Pony” Ma Huateng — was early to report on the “rumour-mongering” Wuhan doctors who late last year warned about a SARS-like virus, confirmed the existence of asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus in Hubei province and ­revealed that the province’s officials told a gene sequencing company to destroy samples of the new disease.
Overseeing these scoops — the latter of which was later deleted from Caixin’s website — is perhaps the most discussed person in Chinese media, Hu Shuli, the media outfit’s founder and publisher.
A party member, honorary doctor at Princeton and former journalist at the Worker’s Daily (where in the 1980s she interviewed the then vice-mayor of Xiamen, Xi Jinping), Hu was once described by The New Yorker as an “incurable muckraker”.
“If it’s not absolutely forbidden, we do it,” Hu has said of her journalistic approach.
She has pioneered a cool, dispassionate tone of reporting that, combined with an antenna for what can get past the censors, has seen her build China’s most ­inter­nationally respected publication.
Connections within China’s ruling elite, including with Vice-President Wang Qishan, are said to have helped. So have the brave journalists who work for her.
Gao Yu, speaking on Caixin’s podcast about his 76 days reporting in the quarantined city of Wuhan, recalled a hazardous trip he and fellow Caixin reporter Bao Zhiming made to the intensive care unit that was treating doctor Li Wenliang, who was punished for sharing information about the coronavirus that later killed him.
“There was lots of mixed information, and we decided to go to the hospital to check,” he said. They had run out of protective gear, but felt compelled to investigate.”
A security guard eventually ­removed them from the ICU about 1am, after asking: “Aren’t you afraid to die?”
Liu Hu, a Chinese journalist ­detained by police in Beijing in 2013, said Caixin’s “contacts” and Hu Shuli’s journalistic ideals had allowed it to negotiate China’s tight controls better than others.
“But there are fewer and fewer of such media in China allowed to still work professionally,” he said.
Even Caixin’s journalists struggle to share the information they unearth. In recent days, one of Gao’s four Caixin colleagues in its Wuhan team published a diary entry that documented an explosive exchange between hospital officials and Hubei party bosses in late January.
The journalist wrote that the president of Wuhan’s Central South Hospital was told by provincial leaders to keep in mind “political” considerations when speaking to a team from the World Health Organisation.
“I will tell the truth,” the hospital boss said in the diarised ­exchange, which appears to be part of Caixin’s unpublished trove. The online diary entry has since been deleted by China’s censors.
CHINA CORRESPONDENT
Will Glasgow is The Australian's China correspondent, based in Beijing. In 2018 he won the Keith McDonald Award for Business Journalist of the Year. He previously worked at The Australian Financial Review.

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