China’s Ministry of Truth banned terms — not all bad.

At first glance the latest pronouncements from China’s “Ministry of Truth” (Directives from the Ministry of Truth: Xinhua News Banned Terms) seem reasonable.

Terms prohibited for people with disabilities include “lame,” “cyclops,” “a blind,” “a deaf,” “idiot,” “fool,” “retarded,” and other derogatory titles. Instead use “disabled person,” “blind person,” “deaf person,” “intellectually challenged person,” and other such terms.


For parties involved in criminal cases, before the court has read a guilty verdict, do not use “criminal.” Instead use “criminal suspect.”

In civil and administrative cases, the plaintiff’s and defendant’s legal standings are the same. The plaintiff can sue the defendant and the defendant can counter-sue the plaintiff. Do not use colorful sentences such as “So-and-so has been placed in the dock.”

These are normal and ethical rules for fair and honest journalism. (See the SPJ Code of Ethics.)

Ah! But then comes the rules for reporting with “Chinese characteristics.”

When it is impossible to avoid referring to Taiwan’s political system and other organizations, quotations should be used. For example, Taiwan’s “Legislative Yuan,” “Executive Yuan,” “Control Yuan,” “Elections Committee,” “Executive Yuan’s Comptroller,” and so on.

As if the only democratically elected legislature and executive branch in a Chinese-speaking territory is not real. (Which, of course, to Beijing it is not.)

Politics and geography also get the “truth” treatment:

References to Xinjiang as “Eastern Turkestan” are strictly prohibited.


Do not use North Korea to refer to the Democratic People’s Republic of Choson. It can be abbreviated as “Choson.” English references should be “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” or the DPRK.

After all that, doesn’t the SPJ Code of Ethics look a whole lot easier to follow?


1 Comment

Filed under Censorship, China

One response to “China’s Ministry of Truth banned terms — not all bad.

  1. I’m glad you posted this, Dan. I need regular reminders not to refer to the disabled as “Cyclops”!
    And thanks for your note — I am pregnant, about 8 months along. The baby is due in late August or Sept 1. We had a tough time the first few months, so we decided to keep quite quiet about it until now.
    Hope you’re well, Joyce

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