Four employees at a Chinese state news agency were suspended following a typo in a report that suggested President Xi Jinping was resigning. The original version of the article, filed Friday by the state-run China News Service, referred to a speech Xi gave during a China-Africa summit last week, mistakenly calling it a “resignation,” according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
Editorial staff at the news agency apparently switched two Chinese characters with similar pronunciations in the report, accidentally writing that Xi’s remarks were a “resignation,” not a “speech.” The article was filed by Ouyang Kaiyu and Song Fangcan, who is China News Service’s South Africa bureau chief. The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said Sunday that two reporters and two editors were suspended because of the typographical error. It’s unclear whether Kaiyu and Fangcan were among those penalized.
Some online news sites failed to see the typo and published the report with the mistake, but most had corrected the error by Sunday. The incident happened two days after China’s state news agency Xinhau misspelled U.S. President Barack Obama’s name in its Chinese translation as “Ao Ma Ba” in an article about his meeting with Xi, the South China Morning Post reported.
Xi served as co-chairman at a two-day conference last week of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg, South Africa, where Chinese and African leaders set the tone for an elevation of partnership. During his remarks at the summit Friday, Xi announced a pledge of $60 billion to development in Africa. The Chinese government will also cancel some outstanding debts for Africa’s least developed nations and boost agriculture under a three-year plan that will expand Beijing’s influence on the African continent, Reuters reported.
During his landmark trip to Africa, Xi’s name appeared in 11 out of 12 headlines on the front page of the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, according to the Wall Street Journal. David Bandurski, an expert on Chinese media at the University of Hong Kong, said several papers were mentioning the leader’s name at rates unseen since the era of Mao Zedong, founding father of the People’s Republic of China.
“There are many other examples, outside the pages of the People’s Daily, showing how Xi Jinping has been elevated on all propaganda fronts,” Bandurski wrote in a post Friday about the phenomenon. “In the latest edition of Southern Weekly, once the standard-bearer of a more freewheeling style of professional journalism in China, praise for the glorious leadership of Xi Jinping is marquee coverage. Read the Southern Weekly piece, which runs more than 10,000 words, and weep: Oh, how far the mighty have fallen into the pit of positivity!”