Whenever the foreign press in China mentions the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, there’s always a contingent here that likes to say, among other things, that it occurred XX years ago and that we should all forget about it. I’m beginning to wonder if those whitewashers should start filing similar complaints with the China Daily. Earlier this month it emerged that the English-language state mouthpiece had acknowledged the Tiananmen massacre in its coverage of the one-year countdown to next year’s Beijing Olympics. (Roland Soong has the complete backstory story at his blog here.) The slip up apparently happened when an editor using a story from Reuters about the celebrations failed to cut the line, “Security was tight around Tiananmen Square, where troops crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989 with huge loss of life, as crowds gathered for the celebrations.” The sentence was later cut from the Web story, but not before the Tiananmen mention got wide coverage in China blogs and Hong Kong newspapers. “China Acknowledges the Tiananmen Massacre…for 12 Hours,” was one popular headline.
Twelve hours was just the beginning though. While trolling around the China Daily website today I noticed that the Reuters story, with the money line, was still up on another page. (I assume this too will get cut or taken down, so here is Google’s cache of the page, and a screen grab.)
It reminds me of a story a former professor of mine likes to tell about what a People’s Daily editor said to him in 1979: “Lies in our newspapers are like rat droppings in clear soup: they are both obvious and disgusting.” The recurring Reuters story makes you wonder if some of that spirit is alive today at the China Daily. Or maybe it’s just that their censors are asleep at the switch.