On November 27, an explosion occurred at Lianhua Science and Technology Inc. of Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, causing dozens of deaths. Overseas Chinese language media reported that the Yancheng City’s Propaganda Department of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) committee and the Xiangshui County Propaganda Department of the CCP committee rapidly reacted to this accident according to their “Emergency Plan on News Propaganda Work for Sudden Incidents” and tried their best to cover the truth. They successfully blocked 21 national and local media agencies and over 69 reporters from reporting the accident by means of bribery including sending prostitutes to reporters. Recently, a working report on handling this accident from the Xiangshui County Propaganda Department of the CCP committee was widely spread on the Internet, detailing how a local government in China attempted to control the media exposure of the incident.  Although this report was nowhere to be found on Xiangshui County’s official website, it was very consistent with Xiangshui County’s report in its CCP Construction Work Meeting in February 2007.  The February report stated that “[we] need to work closely with the county’s Party committee and government, carefully do well on guiding news reporting, strengthening public opinion management, making sure that the news and public opinion are in line with the county’s Party committee and government …[we] need to maintain the system of regular press briefings and news reviews, improve the quality of media work … [we] need to strengthen and improve coordination with media, learn to deal with different kinds of media, improve communications, gain understandings, dissolve negative reports, and maintain Xiangshui County’s good image.” Below is the translation of the full working report spread on the Internet.
—Key Practices in Media Coordination Work of the “11.27” Accident in Xiangshui County
by Xiangshui County CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department (December 24, 2007)
On November 27, an explosion occurred at Lianhua Science and Technology Inc. in Huagongjizhong District of Chenjiagang in Xiangshui County. After the accident, we rapidly reacted according to the “Emergency Plan on News Propaganda Work for Sudden Incidents.” With the city (Yancheng) and county leaders’ personal cares and inquiries, under the leadership of the city and county’s Incident Handling Headquarters, and the direct guidance of the city’s CCP committee’s Propaganda Department and the city’s Media Research and Coordination Team, we began the all-around media agencies’ reception and coordination work. Within a dozen days after the accident, we welcomed and accepted 69 journalists with 21 news agencies, including the Xinhua News Agency, China Youth Daily, China News Services, Xinhua Daily, Jiangsu Legal News, Yangtse Evening Post, CCTV Digital Channel “Safety Online” program, and Jiangsu TV Station. Because of our fast reaction, good strategy, and coordination, especially with the huge support from the city’s major media, the overall coordination work went smoothly and steadily. The media coverage was dominated by positive reports, with rumors suppressed and social stability maintained. Our major practices are the following:
1. Achieve Three “Firsts” to Gain the Initiative on News Coordination
The coordination staff arrived at the accident scene the First time. The “11.27” accident happened around 10:11 a.m. After we were notified, we arrived at the scene around 11:00 a.m. After initial assessment of the situation, we predicted that a lot of media and reporters would come. We immediately decided to set up a temporary reporter reception desk in the meeting room of the Huagongjizhong District’s Management Committee and a news reporter reception in the Five Continent Hotel, so that we could arrange reporters’ board and lodging in a centralized way. The whole staff in the department was mobilized and we transferred 30+ personnel from the Radio and Television Bureau, News Information Center, and other county government agencies to participate in the coordination work. At the same time, we clearly assigned four deputy chiefs of the Propaganda Department to lead four groups to be responsible for the accident scene, treatment location, reporter reception, and service work, respectively.
Receive the reporters in the First time. Whenever a reporter was found to come to Xiangshui County, he/she was first identified, then sent to the Five Continent Hotel for lodging. Every day, we collected the information on newly arrived reporters and reported to the headquarters. We also requested that headquarters tightly control the accident scene and not to allow any reporters entering for interviews or photographs without permission. In the meantime, we also requested the police to check all hotels in Xiangshui County and Chengjiagang and report to us if any reporters checked in. We treated all the reporters in Xiangshui County equally, and treated them as friends with sincerity. We were concerned about their living condition and cooperated with them on their work. We tried to satisfy all their proper requests to gain their understanding, cooperation, and support. Deng Hualin, a reporter from Xinhua News Agency, had to go back to Nanjing City, and we arranged for designated staff and a car to serve him throughout the whole trip. When he arrived, we communicated with him and persuaded him to cancel his second trip for an interview at Xiangshui County. Three days after the accident, three producers from CCTV “Safety Online” program came to Xiangshui County and checked into Xiangshui Hotel without notifying us. They were preparing to do interviews and planned to produce an education program to be broadcast on the CCTV digital channel. After we received the report, we immediately arrived at the hotel and managed to move them to the arranged reception hotel. At the same time, we arranged five staff members and a designated car to follow and serve them. We accompanied them around the clock and successfully blocked them from interviewing people four times. Finally, they had to give up their interview plan. When they decided to go back to Beijing, we sent a car to drive them to Lianyungang City and sent them to board their train.
Provide the news release to media in the First time. During the accident reporting process, the most terrifying thing was not reporters’ sending out their news report quickly, it was that they reported the news with information not provided by the government. Whoever sent out the news in the first place would control the initiative on media report and accident processing. Generally speaking, the first 24 hours after the accident was the critical time frame. In today’s world with the information explosion, delaying reporting would lose the public’s trust in the government. Therefore, with the consent from the headquarters, around 5 p.m. on the same day of the accident, we provided the media with a written news release in the meeting room of the Huagongjizhong District’s Management Committee, and publicized a preliminary report of the explosion. At around 11 a.m. of the 28th, we held a second press conference in the Five Continent Hotel and publicized the progress on the accident investigation; at around 5:30 p.m. on the 29th, we held a third press conference in the Five Continent Hotel and achieved the predicted results. The reporters were satisfied.
2. Keep Three “Combines” to Create an Advantage for News Coordination Work
Combine persuading and dissolving. On the accident scene, our staff and the comrades from the Huagongjizhong District worked together. They patrolled around the clock and guarded the place tightly in order to prevent reporters from entering for interviews without permission. During that time, there were three attempts of reporters trying to climb over the wall and get in for interviews. The patrol staff discovered them in time and persuaded them to leave the scene. At around 6:30 p.m. on the same day of the accident, two groups of reporters were spotted right after they arrived at the scene and they were nicely asked to go back to the Five Continents Hotel.
In the County People’s Hospital where the casualties were treated, in order to provide a peaceful treatment environment, we insisted on disallowing the reporters to enter the treatment area to interview. Once reporters were found, we actively went to talk to them and explained the situation, and sent them to the reporter reception location.
Besides persuading and blocking, we also emphasized dissolving work. Every day, we updated the headquarters on the reporters’ situation. We also timely suggested providing information to the reporters through arranged press conference and news reports, and actively tried to communicate with them better. From the accident day until the day that things calmed down, we had requested the headquarters to arrange three press conferences, where questions, such as the cause of the accident and the identities of the victims, asked by reporters from the Xinhua News Agency and China Youth Daily, were answered. This promptly solved their puzzles and gained good results.
Combine treating media equally and giving special care to important media. We treated all the media agencies equally, but with difference. For important media, we treated them with importance; for ordinary media, we treated them ordinarily. The Xinhua News Agency is our government’s official news agency and has a big influence over other media. They are treated as the most important one among the important ones. We arranged one deputy chief of the Department to accompany Xinhua reporters on a 24/7 basis and served them all along, so as to know their interview plan right away. The reporters Deng Hualin and Liu Zhaoquan had requested repeatedly to go to the accident scene after we provided them with the news report. They even broke the staff’s blockades twice. After carefully considering the situation, the headquarters agreed. On the morning of November 29, we went with them. They took pictures, published two photos, testing the air and part of the accident scene. They objectively reported the appropriate handling of the accident. Many websites immediately carried their articles. This became the mainstream voice on the accident and eliminated the extreme actions from the reporters of the China Youth Daily, Life Week magazine, and a few others influenced by rumors. Finally, most of the reporters obeyed and cooperated with the news coordination arrangements.
Combine the work in centralized and decentralized way. During our work, on one hand, we concentrated on the reporters’ reception and the news coordination work, on the other, headquarters required the Huagongjizhong District, the County People’s Hospital, the mortuary, Lianhua Science and Technology Inc., the police, the Safety Administration Bureau, the Environment Bureau, and the taxi companies to actively participate and cooperate with the news coordination work besides their own duties and keep their eyes closely on the reporters and report their whereabouts. No entity or individual was allowed to be interviewed without headquarters’ permission. On the evening of November 27, 2007, when the reporters from the Xinhua News Agency Jiangsu Province Branch forcefully went to do an interview in the County People Hospital, the hospital staff refused their requests by taking the whole situation into account. They didn’t allow the reporters to enter the patients’ rooms. When the reporters insisted, they contacted the hospital leaders and kept the reporters out of the patients’ rooms with the excuse of medical treatments. On the morning of December 5, 2008, three reporters from CCTV’s “Safety Online” program took a taxi from the Wenhua Taxi Company to go to Shadang Village, Chenjiagang to interview. They requested the taxi driver to turn off his cell phone. Under such circumstance, the driver borrowed other people’s cell phone and reported them to the headquarters while they weren’t paying attention. He provided very important clues and successfully prevented their interview activity.
During the reception process, we discovered that there were pros and cons to treating all reporters in one place. It was easier to control them, but the reporters could work together and communicated between them, which caused many disadvantages on news coordination work. To solve this problem, we combined the work in a centralized and decentralized way. One reporter from China Youth Daily had been not cooperative since arriving at Xiangshui County. He strongly requested many times to interview at the accident scene. On November 27, 2007, after we found out that he contacted the reporters from Xinghua News Agency, we immediately reacted by moving him to the Xiangshui Hilton Hotel. At the same time, a deputy chief with three staff from the Propaganda Department were assigned to watch him around clock. At 5 a.m. on November 28, 2007, this reported tried to sneak out of the hotel but was caught by our staff who blocked him on time.
3. Search for Three “Supports” to Provide a Strong Safeguard on News Coordination Work
Search for the support from higher-level officials, especially from officials in charge. After the accident, we assessed the situation and reported to the leaders in the city Propaganda department. The branch chief flew back to Yancheng City from Beijing on the same day and came to Xiangshui County right away. He personally stayed in the Five Continent Hotel to lead the coordination work. The related comrades from the city’s News Coordination Team came to the accident scene on the afternoon of the accident day and participated in the reporters’ reception work until the work was almost done. The comrades from the Internet Section reported their findings quickly and helped to delete all the untruthful information on the Internet. Dai Yuanhu, the member of the city’s Standing Committee of the CCP, personally helped to arrange and coordinate the press conference-related work. On November 29, 2007, Zhou Dexiang, the chief of city CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department, personally led us to visit and report to Sun Zhijun, a member of Jiangsu Provincial Standing Committee of the CCP and chief of Jiangsu Provincial CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department, Zhou Shikang, the deputy chief of Jiangsu Provincial CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department, Liu Dehai, a member of Jiangsu Provincial CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department, Jin Weiqi, the chief of News Section of Jiangsu Provincial CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department, Zhou Feng, the chief of the Internet Section of Jiangsu Provincial CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department, Jian Ran, the director of the Xinhua News Agency Jiangsu Branch, and Li Can, the executive chief editor of the Xinhua News Agency Jiangsu Branch. On the second day, we also communicated with Xinhua Daily, Jiangsu Legal News, Jiangsu Economics News, and Jiangsu Internet Monitoring Section. The city CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department and News Coordination Team paid strong attention and gave strong support, which played a decisive role in the news coordination work.
Search for the support from the media. The news coordination work gained sincere understanding and support from China County Economics News, Yangtse Evenings Post, Modern Express, and Jiangsu Legal News, etc. There were four batches of reporters from Jiangsu Legal News that came, however, after we talked to them, they showed their understanding and didn’t do any reporting. The chief of Jiangnan Times Yangcheng City Branch showed sympathy after listening to our situation; they went back on the same evening and did not report anything. China County Economics News Jiangsu Branch not only didn’t send any reporter, furthermore, but even helped the coordination work with other media.
Search for the support from people of different walks of life. We contacted the comrades who were originally from Xiangshui County and now work in media-related agencies at the night of the accident, reported the situation, and asked for their help to smoothen the situation with their personal relation. They helped to use the news release we provided and dissolved the news reporting on this accident. One comrade working in the State Council News Office helped us contact the Chinese Communist League’s secretary in charge of China Youth Daily, and requested to dissolve the news reporting on the accident and not to make a big deal. Zhou Lan, the chief of Sheyang County’s CCP Committee’s Propaganda Department also actively helped us to coordinate with the reporters from Xinhua News Agency.
On the afternoon of December 4, while attending the 5th anniversary celebration in Jiangsu Legal News Yangcheng City branch, we heard from a media friend that the CCTV’s “Focus Interview” program planned to come to Xiangshui County to interview on the “11.27” accident. We took this very seriously. On one hand, we reported this to the related leadership and prepared for how to deal with the matter; on the other hand, we immediately obtained the information on who was coming and his cell phone number along with his background, and pressured him through his agency. In the meantime, we quickly got in touch with the contact person with the reporter and met him in Guanyun County. We told him about the situation and asked him to communicate with the CCTV reporter and told them about the untruthful news materials and persuade him not to do the interview. Therefore, we prevented a major news event from happening.
 Chinascope, January, 2, 2008
 Boxun, January 17, 2008
 Xiangshui County’s government website,