The Chinese regime announced its latest list of approved sources for internet news, excluding certain outlets that historically published anti-graft reports rather than toeing the party line. Critics condemned the move as a further step to restrict freedom of speech on the Chinese internet.
On Oct. 20, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released a revised list of sources for internet news, naming 1,358 agencies. The number of approved organizations has nearly quadrupled since 2016. Plus, certain public accounts on social media and apps are included for the first time.
The CAC spokesperson indicated that China’s internet news service providers must adhere to the latest list, and that violators will face punishment.
Notable exclusions include two influential agencies, Caixin Media and The Economic Observer. Both are well-known for publishing anti-graft and critical articles in the news service sector.
‘Against Human Civilization’
China-based author, dissident, and former editor Huang Jinqiu told The Epoch Times on Oct. 20 that the move was intended to lock down all channels on which average people can speak freely and replace them with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) outlets.
He said the press is supposed to function as a societal watchdog or a fourth estate independent of a state’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
“If it’s sponsored and controlled by a political party or government, it will be inclined to tell lies in favor of the government and deceive people,” said the ex-editor. “This is absolutely against human civilization and values.”
Huang viewed China’s state media as a tool for promoting one-party rule rather than functioning as a news outlet in a strict sense.
“In the internet era, everyone can be a journalist, a photographer,” said Huang. “Any action seeking to silence citizens’ voices is foolhardy and will become a laughingstock of humanity and history.”
China-based independent commentator Wu Te criticized the CCP for suppressing media outlets in an interview with The Epoch Times on Oct. 20.
“Despite the extended name list, censorship has essentially been heightened,” he said. “The freedom space of the previous gray area of public accounts and applications is being squeezed, because they’re subject to control now.”
Wu described three reasons for the exclusion of Caixin Media from the approved list.
First, the outlet’s most powerful patron, Wang Qishan, lost favor with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Second, Xi cemented his dictatorship through waves of political purging, no longer needing the media as a tool to court public support for him.
And third, the outlet’s apparently liberal, in-depth investigations became a thorn in the side of the Chinese regime.
The marginalized outlet and its editor-in-chief Hu Shuli will most likely face greater suppression, the commentator predicted.
He cited that Hu vented her anger at Xi on her social media account by posting a row of five pig heads on Oct. 2. Though she later deleted the image, the intent was to scorn Xi, as “pig head” has become a derogatory colloquialism that refers to Xi.
Another China-based expert, surnamed Tsai, told The Epoch Times that Chinese authorities were displeased with both Caixin and The Economic Observer, especially in recent years when outlets have been under strict control.
“Their huge influence is exactly a challenge to Beijing,” said Tsai. “That’s why Beijing would cut their lifeline, to say nothing of their patrons losing power.”
Tsai said what was behind controlling public opinion was to ideologically move back to China’s Mao Zedong era, where authoritarianism dominated China in the 20th century.
“Chinese leader Xi has to purge the press and bring it under his absolute control to secure his re-election victory in the 20th national congress of the CCP in 2022,” the expert added.
Luo Ya contributed to this report.