Secrets out in the open



When the Shunyi District branch of the Beijing Municipal Audit Bureau was informed that it was leaking state secrets, it posted a polite Internal Notice to its website (we’ve taken out the URL and phone number).

To all departments, offices, and institutes:

A netizen recently pointed out that our bureau’s internal notice system contained classified information. Adjustments made by the office have changed the internal notices to be accessible only on the bureau’s internal network. Please redirect your homepage to the following address:


Please contact the office if you have any problems, or dial the general number [redacted]. We thank the netizens for their supervision!

The Office


The website was formerly home to dozens of internal notices, all of which have since been removed from public view.

The “classified information” that is most likely to have instigated the change was a document reposted on the indispensable blog Pro State In Flames on Monday.

That document was classified “Secret” (the lowest of three grades of confidential information according to China’s Law on Protecting State Secrets) and had been put up on the Shunyi branch website on 10 September. It informed staffers of the Audit Bureau’s response to “China in a Torrent,” a recent NHK video series on Chinese social trends. Here’s the surprisingly measured analysis:

At the end of last year, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation was authorized to come to China to film a documentary series, “China in a Torrent,” that reflected current conditions in China. Four episodes have already been broadcast, and the remainder will be broadcast starting in September. The content primarily covers Chinese education, the 17th Party Congress, the Qinghai-Tibet railroad, the law on property rights, the medical system, and how Chinese businesses are entering the world stage.

The basic tone of the first two episodes in the series was negative: they had a negative outlook and led to negative effects. The first episode, “The Rich and the Migrant Workers,” ignored the efforts and accomplishments the Chinese government has made to improve the people’s livelihood and close the gap between the rich and the poor. It presented a one-sided view of the gap in the standard of living of “rich people” and “migrant workers,” and played up the wealth gap with strong images. The second episode, “Mouthpiece and Responsibility,” falsely accused China of having “controlled journalism” and no freedom of the press, leading audiences to turn their attention to particular problems and negative phenomena in Chinese society. This episode also showed internal documents from some local propaganda departments containing orders concerning domestic media reports.

The second two episodes were relatively positive and objective. The third episode, “The Story of a Retirement Home in Qingdao,” was generally supportive of the efforts on the part of Chinese government and society to resolve the aging issue, but at the same time it pointed out some problems that do indeed exist. The fourth episode, “Guaranteeing Beijing’s Water Supply,” reflected the present circumstances of Beijing’s water scarcity and the efforts being made to protect resources and conserve water. It also told of the sacrifices made by the people of neighboring provinces, cities, and regions to insure that Beijing gets the water it needs.

After this series was broadcast, the Foreign Ministry Information Department and the Chinese consulate in Japan negotiated with NHK concerning the negative content of the series, pointing out that the first two episodes were negative in tone and unbalanced, and did not objectively or accurately reflect the realities of Chinese society, thus misleading viewers and harming China’s image. The Chinese side expressed its serious dissatisfaction and hoped that NHK would increase its awareness of its journalistic responsibilities and make objective, comprehensive, and fair reports on China, as well as take steps to diffuse the negative effects of the series. The Japanese side said that NHK had always pursued objectivity and fairness in its reports on China and placed great emphasis on building a cooperative relationship with China. It had no intention of smearing China in the “Torrent” series, and it expressed regret that the series had caused negative effects to the Chinese side. The production team had taken this into account and pledged to show the position and efforts of the Chinese government more carefully, objectively, and substantially in the sequel, so as to eliminate negative effects.

In light of the fact that NHK has had a relatively positive attitude in its dealings with China and has, overall, been objective in its reporting on China, the Chinese side agreed to continue the visits and interviews necessary to complete the series, but it requested that further episodes in the Torrent series fairly and objectively show the development of all aspects of China.

When NHK requests an interview, all levels of Audit agencies are to follow the necessary steps to make reports or gain approval. If their requests are accepted, agencies are to strengthen their awareness of leadership and management, and they are to be fully prepared for the interview so that gatekeeping can be exercised and the interview and filming can be influenced positively.

Danwei saved a copy of this notice before it was wiped.

Unfortunately for thrill-seekers, the rest of the internal notices that were once available to the public are mostly dry announcements and policy documents. The only other classified document is a notice from last November concerning the working environment and the building of a harmonious Audit Bureau.

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