A Chinese Communist Party education group held a mock press conference on January 3, to train local cadres on how to answer questions from the media. Reporters from Xinhua News Agency posed the questions. It was said that the questions were not only varied, but also very direct. Responses such as “I have nothing to say in reference to that incident” were not permitted. In recent years, there have been a variety of major issues arising in mainland China. Each of the issues, from SARS to product quality and safety, has attracted world media attention and concern. Since Beijing is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games, answering questions from the media becomes the unavoidable task of Chinese officials at different levels who must also instruct others.
It was reportedly the first time that a mock press conference was held to train officials. About forty reporters from Xinhua News Agency posed as media representatives from China and other countries.
The press conference was divided into six sessions, with such topics as consumer costs, medical treatment and hygiene issues, food safety, pollution, and state business reform. Each press conference lasted for half an hour. Local officials from different regions were responsible for answering the questions.
One fictitious reporter from the People's Daily asked, “What's your response to critics who say that the local government pursues increasing the GDP without considering the consequences?”
One person representing a reporter from Xinhua News Agency asked, “How are profits from a state business allocated? Can you disclose your annual income?”
Another person, posing as a reporter from AFP asked, “People think that the safety of food manufactured in China is a serious problem. Do you have the same concern when you shop in the supermarket?”
One reporter asked, “Civilians refer to the use of government vehicles for personal matters as “corruption at the bottom.” How do you solve this controversial issue? What car do you ride in when you go to work?”
The report concluded that since participating in the training sessions, many officials appear on stage wearing a suit and tie, smile, and are more at ease when responding to the media.