It’s that time of year again when special interest groups and news outlets publish their list of the Top 10 stories of the year. And this being a “10” year, we also get a few Top 10 stories of the decade.
But leave it to the political masters in Beijing to miss some of the great stories in China.
By David Bandurski
With a list of candidates for the “Top Ten Domestic Stories of the Year“, an online survey feature released over the weekend and shared on most major news portals, People’s Daily Online packaged a politically tidy version of China’s headlines in 2010. Missing from the list of options to be selected from web users between December 17 and December 27 — with the winners announced afterwards — were not just odd favorites, but critical and defining stories, such as the ongoing burden of housing prices and a series of violent attacks on school children in April and May.
In the comments section at People’s Daily Online, web users noted a number of conspicuous absences. “I think the whole ‘My Dad is Li Gang‘ story deserves to be number one,” wrote one respondent, referring to an October incident in which the son of an influential police official in Hubei province struck and killed two female students while driving his sedan across a university campus.
The Hubei story drew a wave of public outrage after it emerged that the official’s son, when finally stopped by students and security guards, had stepped out of his car and threatened, “My Dad is Li Gang! You just try to sue me!” Bans on the reporting of this sensitive story followed quickly, and the university campus was reportedly under lockdown. Just last week, the lawyer representing the parents of one of the victims was attacked by unidentified assailants.
But no one will be casting votes for the Li Gang story, which didn’t make the short list of candidates at People’s Daily Online. A user sarcastically identified as “the river crab is so yellow and so violent“; (a reference to censorship masquerading under the official banner of ‘harmony’) wrote: “With even Li Gang not on the list, this whole thing is so obviously a fraud!”
As expected there was no mention of the first Chinese winning the Nobel Peace Prize. There were some online commentators who noted this omission, but who — for obvious reasons — played it safe.
In order to remove the obvious red flags, the user replaced the characters for “peace” + “prize”, or heping jiang with the same-sounding characters “crane” + “level” + “palm”, or heping zhang.
The list of 15 stories the censors and political masters put out for the people to “vote” on for the top 10 is a list of self-serving stories about great political strides made by the Communist Party and how wonderful China is.
- The Fifth Plenary Conference of the 17th Central Committee of the CCP is held in Beijing (October)
- CCP organizations and Party members at the grassroots levels launch intensive campaigns to encourage them to excel in their performance (April-May)
- The Shanghai World Expo is held successfully, showing off the fruits of urban civilization (May-October)
- The Central Party leadership introduces successive policies to adjust housing and product prices, controlling the rise of property and product prices
- The government launches the country’s first medium and long-term talent plan (May)
- 30-year anniversary celebrations held for Shenzhen, Shantou and Zhuhai (September)
- Strengthening cross-straits economic ties (June)
- China’s 6th National Census begins (November)
- Implementation of the National Plan for the Medium and Long-term Reform and Development of the Education System (July)
- The Chang’e 2 satellite is successfully launched (October)
- Track laying was completed for the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway (November)
- Guangzhou successfully hosts the 2010 Asian Games (November-December)
- An earthquake strikes Yushu County in Qinghai province (April 14)
- A mudslide suddenly strikes Zhouqu County in Gansu province, killing around 1,000 people (August 7)
- 115 die and 38 are rescued in a mining disaster in Wangjialing, Shanxi province (March)
Of the stories the rest of the world think are significant that weren’t on the list included two about how the Chinese government really sees the whole issue of free press and expression:
- Xie Chaoping arrested for work of reportage exposing abuses during the building of the Sanmen Dam project in the 1950s (The Guardian: “Writer Xie Chaoping detained in Shanxi”)
- Google Exits Mainland China (January) (Forbes: “Google Takes on China”)
- Li Hongzhong NPC shouts at Beijing Times reporter (March)
- During this year’s session of the National People’s Congress, Hubei Governor Li Hongzhong became furious when a reporter from the Beijing Times, a commercial spin-off of the Party’s official People’s Daily, asked a question about the Deng Yujiao case in 2009. Grabbing the reporter’s digital recorder from her hand, Li fumed: “You’re from People’s Daily and you ask such a question? Is this the kind of mouthpiece you are? Is this how you guide public opinion? What is your name? I want to find your boss!” Hundreds of professional journalists responded with an open letter calling on Li to publicly apologize.