China sets rules for news reports on Taiwan, HK

Pro-Taiwan protesters demonstrating outside the United Nations offices on the opening day of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in May. China has consistently blocked Taiwan's efforts to take part in internat
Pro-Taiwan protesters demonstrating outside the United Nations offices on the opening day of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in May. China has consistently blocked Taiwan's efforts to take part in international organisations such as the WHO.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Move stresses country's sovereignty over the two territories

The official Xinhua news agency has updated its style guide for Chinese journalists, with a major part of the update stressing China's sovereignty over Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The circular released last week added 57 rules to a guide first released in 2015 that had 45 prohibited terms. The new rules largely stipulate how the two territories should be referred to in news articles. For instance, Taiwan should not be called the Republic of China (ROC), which Taiwan uses as its official name. The term "Taiwan's leaders" should be used in place of "Taiwan government".

Taiwan responded by saying the move threatened to create an impasse in cross-strait ties. Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister and spokesman Chiu Chui- cheng urged the Chinese media to "fully report reality and respect the fact that the ROC exists".

For Hong Kong, Britain's 1997 return of the territory should not be called a "sovereign handover" but "the resumption of sovereignty".

Beijing's latest move to bring the media in line comes ahead of a top-echelon leadership reshuffle at the 19th Party Congress, expected to take place in the autumn.

Experts said the move continues a trend that began when President Xi Jinping took office, to tighten control over information and the media in favour of the official state-approved narrative.

"He has treated separatist movements in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang through the same prism - the conspiracy theory that destabilising agents in these four places are colluding with the US to subvert socialism and thwart national unity in China," said Hong Kong-based political analyst Willy Lam. "The emphasis on the correct wordings and titles reflects efforts to further squeeze the opposition in these four places."

  • Some new rules

    •It is strictly forbidden to use "President or Vice-President of the Republic of China". It should be "leader (and deputy leader) of the Taiwan region".

    •Taiwan's institutions that share the same name as those in the mainland should have the prefix of Taiwan, Taipei or the region: National Tsing Hua University and National Palace Museum should be Taiwan Tsinghua University and Taipei Palace Museum, respectively.

    •The word "national" should be removed from the formal names of schools and institutions in Taiwan: the National Taiwan University should be called Taiwan University.

    •The 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests in Hong Kong should be called "the illegal Occupy protests".

There is also a strong element of bending to nationalism, said economics professor Hu Xingdou at the Beijing Institute of Technology. He noted that Chinese media groups are seen by Beijing to be extensions of the state, and are expected to reflect the official line.

Reform and opening up of the Chinese economy had also caused greater inequality and unhappiness in society, Prof Hu added, with the latest move another sign of Beijing being compelled by the public to shift further to the left.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2017, with the headline 'China sets rules for news reports on Taiwan, HK'. Print Edition | Subscribe