Two editors at the state-run newspaper Shaanxi Daily were fined 10,000 yuan ($1,440) and 5,000 yuan, respectively, for a “major political error” after they added three Chinese characters to the Communist Party’s (CCP) new ideological line, “Xi Jinping Thought,” in a Nov. 15 article.
In October 2017, the CCP’s once-in-five-years political conclave, the 19th National Congress, confirmed “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (known as Xi Jinping Thought) as the Party’s guiding political and military ideology.
In the past few decades, former CCP leaders have had their ideologies included in the Party constitution, but without their names attached. The inclusion of Xi’s name places him alongside Communist China founder Mao Zedong as the only other leader whose name is attached to his thought. Deng Xiaoping’s name is linked to only a “theory.”
In March 2018, Xi Jinping Thought was formally written into the Chinese state constitution, further solidifying his power.
Shaanxi Daily is the official newspaper controlled by the provincial-level Party committee of Shaanxi, located in western China. The capital of Shaanxi is Xi’an, a city that served as the imperial capitals of many Chinese dynasties.
According to Shaanxi Daily internal documents acquired by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, on Nov. 15, Liu Hui, the editor of Shaanxi Daily’s Science and Education & Culture pages, added the three Chinese characters meaning “general secretary” to the words “Xi Jinping Thought” in an article. Wang Gehua, the chief editor, signed off on the paper without correcting the mistake.
“General secretary” is the highest-ranking position within the CCP and its holder is considered the paramount leader of the Chinese regime. Historically, the general secretary has simultaneously held the positions of head of state and head of the military—except for a few inconsistencies during power transitions.
In the early morning of Nov. 16, the paper’s copyediting team found the error and corrected it before the paper went to print, but the “political error” was subject to an investigation. Shaanxi Daily found that the two editors should take responsibility, and were fined.
It’s not the first time media workers have been punished for “political mistakes” in recent Chinese history.
On April 23, 2016, CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily published an article saying that Xi was the general secretary of Singapore. Because all major Chinese media published the article, for half an hour, readers across China saw the mistake.
Very quickly, the propaganda department of the CCP deleted all the articles, and announced that it had punished the responsible reporters and editors. No further details were given about the persons involved or what penalties they received.
About a month ago, the state-run Xinhua newspaper named Xi as “the last leader of China” in a report. Although Xinhua quickly deleted the article, it was still seen by many readers, Radio Free Asia reported.
In response to the political error, Xinhua held senior editor Li Kai, who had worked at the paper for 14 years, responsible. Li was removed from his position, had his rights to publish articles revoked, and was expelled from the Communist Party.