The peril of discussing official business in enclosed spaces

Here's a great correction from Hangzhou News Net:

News Correction

On 3 July, this website published an article titled "In the course of duty, Xu Xinxian..." We recently received criticism and corrections from upper-level news departments. This article was published by an intern, Zhang Yang, who was a temporary hire at our website. Since graduating from school, this reporter had had no real-world experience. That day, Zhang Yang coincidentally was at the scene of the events; he was eager to publish the news but was later prevented from doing so. However, after a few days, Zhang Yang published the information. This had a negative effect; it smeared party cadres and wasted the time of the general online population. This website has already decided to dismiss that reporter and withhold that month's salary and bonus.

As for the article "In the course of duty, Xu Xinxian...", this website makes the following clarifications (update: the correction has been taken down and replaced with a second clarification):

  1. The article had not been reviewed or approved by the leaders so it should not have been published unilaterally. The article's contents were completely at odds with the facts. We hereby offer our readers our sincere apologies;
  2. Xu Xinxian is just a normal small-town worker, not some leading party cadre;
  3. Xu Xinxian may have died due to some sudden medical condition; it occured in his private car, not in a government car. At the scene of the incident, Xu Xinxian was alone in the car and he was properly dressed - he was not naked;
  4. As for who the other person was, it is currently unclear. At any rate it was not a woman cadre; the individual was not in the same car and was not naked. Apart from being a normal worker, other details are still being investigated by relevant departments;
  5. Matters related to Xu Xinxian are still being investigated by relevant departments; Lin'an's newspapers have not made any reports, so general readers are requested not to engage in excessive discussion, but to trust in the party and trust its organizations.

The original news item described how Xu Xinxian "died in the course of duty" when he passed away in his car, naked, while discussing public affairs with a woman. Here's that first report:

Breaking News: Xu Xinxian, party secretary of Qingliangfeng Town, Lin'an City, and an outstanding party member, recently sacrificed himself in the course of duty. Secretary Xu Xinxian, engaged in official business, overworked himself day and night; ultimately his strength gave out and he passed away in a sedan together with an outstanding woman cadre of the town. Reportedly, secretary Xu Xinxian and that cadre were discussing official business inside the sedan when the air conditioning lost power due to fuel running out, and the interior of the car reached seriously high temperatures. The car was parked in a garage; to cool down, the two individuals took off their clothing yet continued to discuss business until they died. The common people of Qingliangfeng Town are fortunate to have had such a conscientious and responsible party secretary. The secretary worked for the people every moment of every day, and right before his death was still personally working for women. His work record should be remembered in everyone's heart.

Although it's hard to imagine such a report appearing on a straight news site, it actually ran on Hangzhou News Net (oddly, the date listed on the site is 1 June even though the article ID places it in July).

The news item proved extraordinarily popular online. According to later rumors and leaked information, the woman was Pan Lihang, the 29-year-old head of the town's Women's Federation. The two apparently died of carbon monoxide poisoning on 30 June. The local government was also said to have issued orders that the deceased not be given memorial services, that their funerals be understated, and that no reports were to be made of the affair. The usual deletion of forum posts followed.

Other rumors included:

· The two had actually died on the 26th but were not discovered until the 29th because people thought they had gone to Shanghai;
· Xu had been publicly commended for his work on behalf of the party in 2006, making his death all that much more of an embarrassment that needed to be covered up;
· Pan was either two or four months pregnant;
· Their families refused to take their bodies.

It's unclear how much of this (if any) is true. However, one important lesson to learn from this is to be careful when running the air conditioning in your car while parked in a garage, particularly if you have a lot of business to discuss.

via Lian Yue.

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There are currently 8 Comments for The peril of discussing official business in enclosed spaces.

Comments on The peril of discussing official business in enclosed spaces

One wonders how the intern's write up got published. From the reporters I know, interns are usually relegated to either selling ads or being the first proofreader. They occasionally get to write fluff pieces, but nothing serious.

Even if the intern got to write some 'real' stories, what happened in the editing process?


Rumour has it Mr Xu spent his early career making sterling contributions to fraternal socialist programmes in East Africa, and since his return to the Motherland was eager to remain involved in Ugandan discussions on behalf of the local Waiban.

The article, "Correction on news of town official Xu Xinxian", has been deleted on

The blank is replaced by a short note:
"Thank you all for attending to the Hangzhou Information Web. Following the regulation of higher authorities, this article has been deleted. With regards to the issue of Xu Xinxian of Qingliangfeng Town, Lin'an City, the incident has long been passed, please don't discuss it anymore. The Xu Xinxian incident was just an unmeant and exceptional case. The majority of our party members and cadres are good. It will still be the statement we always convey: trust the organization and the party. Its conclusion will be revealed after thorough investigation. Before that, it is not appropriate to discuss it anymore."

Thanks for the update, Absurdfool. Who'd have thought a simple news correction would get 26,844 views? It really doesn't look like anyone at the website understands what's going on.

Jim, thanks for the new euphemism.

There's a copy of the correction here: link

Ah... I posted that link during a brief lull at work, so I didn't read the comment that had been left on that blog. It's very brief - just two links. The first is a news report from 2005, identifying a certain Xu Xinxian as party secretary of Qingliangfeng, Lin'an City. link. The second goes to the Lin'an government's website which does the same. link.

So was the correction supposed to be denying he was a party secretary - easily demonstrated to be false - or was it merely saying that he wasn't an "outstanding" party secretary? Or are there (were there) two Xu Xinxians? Or were both the report and retraction acts of mischief? The possibilities seem endless.

Thanks, cat. I think the correction is saying that being the party secretary of Qingliangfeng, even if one is an outstanding party member, isn't really all that big of a deal. Xu's no Chen Liangyu, in other words, so don't make a such a fuss about him.

Also, someone on Lian Yue's comment thread noted that Hangzhou News Net site is registered to an individual in Lin'an.

It just keeps getting better: There's a new "internal item" from the website that talks about how rich the common people are in Hangzhou and how it's all possible because of the four cardinal principles and the leadership of the party, so there's no reason to discuss an ethical lapse that doesn't even rise to the level of a crime. (Lian Yue's repost)

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