Teaching China’s Police to Handle Troublesome Reporters

Via Sonagi in the duckpond, this article includes an actual excerpt from the training manual coaching Beijing’s police on how to deal with the foreign media during the Olympics. It’s already a week old but it’s worthy of a mention.

‘Illegal’ news coverage

What follows is the dialog “How to Stop Illegal News Coverage” that appears in a training manual distributed to Beijing policemen learning English in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games.

P(oliceman): Excuse me, sir. Stop, please.

F(oreign journalist): Why?

P: Are you gathering news here?

F: Yes.

P: About what?

F: About Falun Gong.

P: Show me your press card and your reporter’s permit.

F: Here you are.

P: What news are you permitted to cover?

F: The Olympic Games.

P: Falun Gong has nothing to do with the Games…. You should only cover the Games.

F: But I’m interested in Falun Gong.

P: It’s beyond the limit of your coverage and illegal. As a foreign reporter in China you should obey China law and do nothing against your status.

F: Oh, I see. May I go now?

P: No. Come with us.

F: What for?

P: To clear up this matter.

I love the “Come with us.” This is a sure-fire way to win the hearts and minds of the world’s foreign correspondents. I’d love to know who their PR agency is. They have a challenge in front of them.

Update: The US has some skeletons in its own closet as well when it comes to media relations. This story is a shocker, even if it’s from three-quarters of a century ago.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

My favorite line in the dialog is when the imaginary dipstick foreign correspondent simply tells the police officer that he is gathering news about Falun Gong.

December 17, 2006 @ 6:07 am | Comment

Reporters and the government are always opposing each other in every country. So it is simply fair for the government to develop strategies to handle reporters. This is the same in every country. For example, in the US White House, the spokesman will how to answer an unfriendly reporter’s question skillfully. I don’t see anything unusual about this. Don’t try to make a big deal out of this.

December 17, 2006 @ 6:52 am | Comment

Oh yes the Olympics will be a very intersting time.

December 18, 2006 @ 3:54 am | Comment

I suppose that’s true Pigsun, but US press secretaries aren’t allowed to have the interviewers dragged off to police court just for discussing a certain topic. That’s a pretty big difference. (Though I’m sure a few recent press secretaries probably wish they had that power…)

December 18, 2006 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

I think you are confusing PR with freedom of the press. In the above example, the foreign journalist is not interviewing government officials about their policies, he/she is collecting information for a story. This is what the police hope to stop, and these kinds of tactics are absolutely illegal in America. Unfortunately for China, following the manual has the reverse effect of turning a nonstory into an interesting one. I can’t wait to see the headlines.

December 19, 2006 @ 12:00 am | Comment

My reference to PR is the fact that stories like this – of institutionalized program specifically designed to limit freedom of the press – will create a PR nightmare for the PRC.

December 19, 2006 @ 12:10 am | Comment

I always thought PRC stood for “public relations catastrophe”….

December 19, 2006 @ 11:11 am | Comment

Oh sorry, Richard, I was addressing my comment to Pigsun. I totally agree with you.

December 19, 2006 @ 12:31 pm | Comment

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