Chinese state news agency was left red-faced after it referred to President Xi Jinping as “China’s last leader”, an apparent copy editing error which forced the rest of the official media to issue a correction to undo the damage. Xinhua itself had to issue a correction to the copy which had by then been widely reused, and asked outlets to change the reference to Xi as “China’s top leader”, BBC reported today. In the end, many outlets simply removed yesterday’s article in its entirety.
The two phrases in Chinese language are just one character different, but are pronounced very differently, it said. The gaffe came as a surprise as it has occurred in the midst of increasing controls over the official media since Xi took over power in 2013.
As the 62-year-old consolidated his power base by holding the Presidency, head of the ruling Communist Party of China and the military, the official media has been projecting Xi as the most powerful Chinese leader after Mao Zedong, highlighting his massive campaign against corruption.
Thousands of officials including senior leaders were punished in the anti-graft campaign. Similar typos in the past have had serious consequences for the journalists involved.
In December, four journalists were suspended after the China News Service - also controlled by the ruling party - accidentally reported Xi’s “resignation” (ci zhi) instead of “speech” (zhi ci) during his tour of Africa.
Censorship and arrests of journalists are on the rise and in 2015, China put 29 journalists behind bars, for a variety of alleged offences, the report said.
Xi recently visited newsrooms in Beijing, calling for “absolute loyalty” to the Communist Party. But just last week, prominent Chinese financial magazine Caixin highlighted censorship of its content, in a rare and defiant move against the government.