Chinese state-run media’s coverage on June 4 and Occupy Central

As the Occupy Central movement is going on, the Tiananmen Square event in June 4, 1989, has been related to the current protests as both of them are pro-democracy movements led by students in China. Doubts are casted whether Occupy Central will be another June 4 as the Chinese government deployed the People’s Liberation Army to clear the protesters 25 years ago. The differences, however, are also obvious regarding to the role of the central and the HKSAR government, the new international relations, the rise of social media network, etc.

This project aims at analyzing the propaganda policies and communication strategies of the Chinese government by looking into the similarities and differences of the state-run media’s coverage on the two events. Study objects include the People’s Daily and the Chinese Central Television Station, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece.

Research methods

Search printed news materials in databases

Find audio and visual news materials online

Read and refer to journals and articles on Chinese communications and propaganda



Analyze the texts of the reportages in wordings, logics, structures etc.

Summarize the above characteristics by the stages of the development of the movement

Explain why they were written in those ways, what goals they served and what influence they casted

Compare those similarities and differences in the above aspects in the two events

Sum up the propaganda policies and communication strategies of the Chinese government in media reportage


Occupy Central Movement Covered by CCTV
By CONG Hui, Charlene

In general, compared with the video clips of the event on June 4th that we could find from the Internet or library, the videos covering the Occupy Movements in 2014 from CCTV are relatively much more. Since the Occupy Central Movement is still ongoing, with new coverage coming along, we have picked some typical videos from the CCTV Xinwen Lianbo program which could reflect some worth-noticing turning points for us to analyze.


First Piece - CCTV Xinwen Lianbo Sept 30

This piece of reporting on CCTV Xinwen Lianbo program is the first piece that covered Occupy Central Movement in Hong Kong, even though the movement had been ongoing for long before the coverage.

It is a totally OC(on camera) coverage without any package or pictures, with all the scripts from Xinhua News Agency. In the 2-minute coverage, there are only several words printed on screen as a banner to show the topic of the story.

It says the Occupy Central movement has left tremendous passive influences on equity market, property market, catering services, tourism and people’s daily life. It also says that all sectors of society in Hong Kong appeal that the organizers and participants should stop the illegal action and restore order again. 


One-sided story

Same as the reporting on the event of June 4th, this story is also a one-sided story without other opposite views. All the script is about the negative effects that Occupy Central movement has brought and the “agreement” all sectors in society have reached that the movement should be stopped. Tear gas or pepper spray is not mentioned in the script.

Different from the sharp and incisive words, the words the anchor uses to describe the protesters this time are no longer “mobs” or “thugs”. But criticizing tone from the anchor is still easily perceived throughout the coverage.


Second Piece - CCTV Xinwen Lianbo Oct 21

This piece of video clip covers the dialogue between Hong Kong government and student protester on Oct. 21st when the first time the two sides have discussed the region’s political reforms face-to-face.

The more than eight-minute-long video includes an OC and a package, which only contains a record of the dialogue of both sides. Instead of quoting one or two sentences from each side, the video extends the quote part to more than five minutes.

Third Piece - CCTV America Oct 26, Anti-Occupy Central campaign gets support from HK residents

This piece of video clip showed up on CCTV America, an English language channel owned by CCTV, after five weeks protesting.

With the development of the media technology, more forms of the way telling story by broadcasting are emerging, such as on camera (OC), package, SOT, and etc. They are all contained in this piece of video.What’s the meaning of this paragraph?

It tells a story about a protest against the protest. It says that hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents have signed up for an Anti-Occupy Central campaign. After five weeks of Occupy Central protests, an increasing number of people are speaking out against them. 

It contains several pieces of SOTs (sound bite), but all these are from the supporting sides. Obviously it is another one-sided story. The main content of the SOTs is that occupy central movement is no longer peaceful and keeping on causing inconvenience to citizens, and what the people need is law and order.

Both the anchor and reporter are becoming more professional, with less subjective words used in their scripts.


Fourth Piece - CCTV News Dec 10, HK police begin clearing final Occupy protest zones

This piece of video, from CCTV News, tells us the final road clearing operation. A rundown of OC--VO--Live Cross--Graphic Picture is followed by this video clip.After more than three months protesting and conflicts, the final road clearing by the government indicates an end of the occupy movement.

The whole rundown, including the VO and Live Cross, contains no conflicting scenes or any clearing operations. The VO part just shows us several recorded scenes in a police meeting and the road situation in Admiralty.In the Live Cross part, the reporter just stands by the scene and tells us what is going on inside the crowd.

Conclusion of Occupy Central Movement Covered by CCTV

In conclusion, the video clips of the Occupy Central movement offer a clearerimage of what is happening in Hong Kong compared to the June 4th event with the applying of the different ways of telling the story, like using a package, graphics, live cross,and etc. But the lack of images or packages on the scene and the imbalance of the two sides make the story told in a low credibility.


The People’s Daily’s coverage on Occupy Central
By Huang Zheping

For 75 days, the Occupy Central movement, the Umbrella Revolution, or the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, whatever it is called, seems like a wild roller-coaster ride.

Police using tear gas invites Hong Kong people’s full participation and indescribable anger at the start; the prolonged endless sit-ins in the city’s central shopping and business districts wane the public supports and the rest are self-entertained with art works in the middle way; the increasing divergence between the government, the demonstration leaders and the public (also among themselves), and the repeated occupy-clear-reoccupy processes (sometimes with violence) in several main roads, finally leads to a thorough clearance under the cover of the high court injunction at the end.

These ups and downs are good enough to make a blockbuster movie – art circle in Hong Kong is actually planning to do so. However, what the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s No.1 mouthpiece, sees, records, and wants the Chinese to know is completely a different story.

It is as plain as a glass of boiled water – the modifier to Occupy Central is as simple as “illegal”, which is repeated nearly in each article; the impact of the movement is as consistent as jeopardizing “the prosperity and stability of the society” and diminishing “the tradition of rule of law” from the first day to the last. We can never read any details or development of a news event, but the conclusions drawn afterwards by the authorities. Nor can we hear any voice from a student leader, or some normal protesters, but the praises from “the majority of the citizens” to the police and their condemnations to “the illegal acts”.


After the kick-off of the movement on Sept 28, people are wondering when the People’s Daily is to speak out. The first piece comes on Oct 1, the National Day. In the editorial headlined as “Cherish the good development of the situation, maintain Hong Kong's prosperity and stability”, the “staff commentator” denounced the Occupy protesters as the “extreme minority” and emphasized “rule of law” throughout the whole passage. 

“If anyone has a different opinion to CPPC’s decision [on 2017 chief executive election], they absolutely can turn to proper ways to express their appeals, but not to use the extreme way of Occupy Central,” the article writes.

This editorial bylined as “staff commentator” set a benchmark for the later pieces, which is to make argument on “rule of law” – the phrase which has been lift into a unprecedented high level in the Party’s history in Xi Jinping’s talk at the fourth plenary session of the Party’s Central Committee this year.

Three days later, on Oct 4, another piece written by “staff commentator” headlined as “Resolutely safeguard rule of law in Hong Kong” appears on the front page, setting the tone of the standpoints of the mouthpiece even more directly.

Among the 61 pieces of The People’s daily’s coverage on Occupy Central, ten are editorials like this ( including three bylined as “staff commentator” and two of them published on the front pages). “Rule of law”, “economic doom”, and “stability and prosperity” – these are the propaganda terms used to counterattack one word – “democracy”.




Besides from letting its own commentators to show the Party’s uncompromising position, the People’s daily even distributes more coverage to report the “experts’ opinions”. The frames are quite similar: cite three to five experts in the same academic fields to prove one argument.

Five Law experts saying Occupy Central is illegal and not a justice way of the freedom of expression; three economic experts saying Occupy Central is causing an “economic doom”; three other law experts again saying Occupy-ers are deliberately breaking the law and diminishing “Hong Kong’s tradition of rule of law”…

While making these arguments, these experts give no proof – either statistics, examples or citations of a single article of law – to make them credible. They talk in the same way as staff commentators do.

Moreover, the People’s Daily do think hard to make their viewpoints look widely accepted, at least from geographical perspective. After a piece headlined as “Western scholars question motivation of Occupy Central organizers”, one day later, another piece headlined as “Mainland scholars question motivation of Occupy Central” was released.

Opinions from other news outlets can also been seen in these opinion writings. They are three Hong Kong media – pro-Beijing Oriental Daily, Wenweipo, Takunpo, and two foreign media– pro-Beijing Lianhe Zaobao from Singapore, and Wall Street Journal, whose article on the protests’ influence to Hong Kong’s tourism was quoted.  


It is not hard to imagine that police using tear gas or pepper spray, or some anti-Occupy protesters’ violence are excluded from the People’s Daily’s reportage. The Party’s mouthpiece is intended to weaken the coverage of the spot news while lays much emphasis on the public opinions behind. See what are covered.

The police clearances and the court injunctions: The People’s Daily reports both the first-stage clearances on Queensway, Lung Wo Road of Admiralty and the second-stage clearances - these are covered by the court injunctions - in front of Citic Tower at Admiralty, on Nathan Road at Mong Kok, and the latest one on Harcourt Road and Connaught Road at Admiralty.

These stories focus on the aftermath – the authorities responses, the public opinions that praising the police actions, the complaints from different industries to the protests– rather than the events. The scuffles between the police and the Occupy protesters, and between the Occupy protesters and Anti-Occupy protester are described as follows: 

“Previously on Lung Wo Road, the police arrested a protester who threw a water bottle onto the road. Unexpectedly, more than 200 people surrounded and shoved the three police officers at the scene. Someone raised their hands to pretending a“peaceful demonstration”, while he was actually kicking hard at a police officer.”

“Previously, a group of Anti-Occupy citizens came to Mong Kok to move the battens blocked on the road. They had quarrels and scuffles with the protesters. The police formed a human chain at the scene to separate the two groups.”

Anti-Occupy signature-gathering campaign: From Oct 26 to Dec 3, the People’s Daily writes five stories to keep a close update to the week-long campaign, telling the detailed numbers of the increasing participants and quoting government officials’ words which support the campaign.

The dialogue between the SAR government and the student representatives: HKSAR government first cancelled the dialogue on Oct 9 and then it was held on Oct 21. Both of the stories were released on the next day’s paper with the quotations from the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam of the SAR government only. The student leaders’ voices are muted.

The economic doom and people’s livelihood: These pieces are at large at the first two weeks of the protests. See their similarities from the headlines:

Occupy Central harms Hong Kong's international image

Illegal Occupy Central harms Hong Kong's exhibition industry

Illegal Occupy Central continues troubling people's life

Illegal Occupy Central's negative influence is continually spreading

Occupy Central harms livelihood, people are hoping it to end early

Occupy Central strikes various industries, people's life is interfered



Surprisingly, the People’s Daily also writes two features on the protests – one is a profile of police officers, the other is about a Hong Kong citizen’s diary which, according to the author, is widely spread online.

The profile tells the story of two police officers in their twenties during the protests. They have to be on duty for nearly 20 hours a day; they are not happy about being insulted from the protesters; one of them gets hurt at the front line at Mong Kok.

"My heart is full of anxiety and fury" is a sentence from a mother’s diary and is used as the headline by the author of the feature story. The story excerpts three pieces of the diary which describe due to the blocked traffic, how hard it is for the mother to go to work on time and to get home early to have a dinner with her daughter. The author ends the story in a poetic way.

“Hoping for, everybody is hoping for what the mother says in today’s diary – ‘Mummy will come back to have dinner with you tomorrow, alright?’”

“Tomorrow will be fine, definitely.”


CCTV News on the June Fourth Incident, 1989
By William Luo

In general, we can find very few video clips from neither the Internet nor library about the event from CCTV News bulletin. We can only find two short video clips about the event on June 3rd and June 4th.


CCTV News bulletin June 3rd

This video is not longer than 30 seconds. The anchor spoke to the camera to read an announcement from the Martial Law Command Center of PLA. It said that the Martial law forces, the police, and the armed police had the right to deal by all means with the protesters. Organizers and perpetrators will take all the consequences.

It was just an announcement to be informed to the audience, and the anchor just read it emotionlessly.

CCTV News bulletin June 4th

In this five-minute long video, there is only one piece of news that tells what happened on 1989 June 4th. However, there is nothing but a banner displayed on screen and the anchor telling the story by words. There is no picture, no video on the scene. In the 5-minute TV story, there were only several words printed on screen to show the topic of the story.

The story tells what happened on that day. The story gave the audience a vivid picture that how protesters and students attacked other citizens and PLA army soldiers, such as “on Fuyou Street, the thugs intercepted a jeep car. A PLA officer in that car was stripped naked. They humiliated him recklessly,” and “in front of a bicycle store close to Qianmen, three PLA soldiers was wounded, and the thugs screamed that they will kill whoever dare to save those three soldiers.” However, when it comes to PLA soldiers confronted with the protesters, the story says like nothing radical happened. For example, “at 5 am, the martial law forces entered into Tiananmen Square, and students and other people retreated at the same time,” “at 2 pm, with the cooperation of some students, the policemen and armed policemen dispersed the thugs.” There was little detail about how the police, PLA, the armed police do to “dispersed” the protesters. In addition, the story tells much more about how protesters attacked at police, PLA, and armed police than how they were treated.

The story is a one-sided story that mainly  shows how the protesters were radical. It tells only two brief example in which the police “disperse” the protesters. In addition, the story calls the protesters as “thugs”, which is a subjective word.

On the other side, the anchor read the story with no emotional fluctuation; and the speed was rather slow. The audience could not perceive what she was reading was a radical event. The anchor read it peacefully.


Conclusion of CCTV News in 1989

In conclusion, these two short video clips could only offer a very vague image of what happened in Beijing and in Tiananmen Square. The absence of image on the scene and the imbalance of the two sides make the story told in the news a low credibility. Meanwhile, the rareness of the video archive will lead people even more skeptical with the authenticity of the story and this news organization.


People’s Daily’s report on the June Fourth Incident, 1989
By Chloe Chao

It can be divided mainly into five different types.


Emotional Reports

Before June 4th, many reports in People’s Daily are about different people calling for students retreating from the square back to campus. These people included professors, government officials, party leaders, journalists and ordinary people from other provinces. The reports are quite emotional, showing great sympathy and care to students, which seems like elderly people were hoping young generation to “go back to classroom soon” and “care about health”. These reports firstly agreed with students’ ideal of pursuing democracy, and then call for actions like studying hard, other than protest.

Timely Reports

Starting from May 21st, Beijing was enforced a restriction by military force. Since then, People’s Daily launched a report series called “Day X since restriction”, which mainly describes the situation in Beijing city as well as protest site in Tiananmen Square every day. The series covered a large scale of roles, including protest students, ordinary citizens, cleaners, and the police. These reports are short—usually five or six sentence, with calm words and large amounts of details. But the series lasted only 10 days.


People’s daily also published serious editorials to oppose the protest. The famous “4.26 editorial” is regarded to have been triggered students’ anger for defining peaceful protest as turmoil on April 26th. The “4.26 editorial” said several of the students were anti-CCP, anti-people’s rule over the country, and was plotting to overturn the current regime, while the rest of the students, accounting for larger proportion, were deluded by them. Before the “4.26 editorial”, students were not totally opposed to CCP leaders who were in power then, but after that, they became much more radical, as the editorial slandered their actions and purpose. As a result, the “4.26 editorial” became the turning point of student protest in the Tiananmen Square, as more and more students came and join the movement to show their ambitions to change the society and reform.

After the “4.26 editorial”, People’s Daily published other 3 editorials on the front page before June, which pointed out that there could be better ways to achieve democracy and criticized the students’ actions mildly.

On June2th, 4th and 5th, editorials condemning the movement started to appear on the paper’s front page, which included frequent use of words like “rioter”, “contemptible means”, “illegal turmoil” and “conspiracy”. The tones of these editorials are quite similar with the “4.26 editorial”, saying the movement was led by “the bourgeoisie class”, “oversea hostile forces” and “betrayers”, and conducted by rogues and remaining supporters of the “four people gang” in the Cultural Revolution.


On Jun 7th, there was a seemingly strange article on the fourth page, which told a story of hundreds of deerlets killed in Inner Mongolia. On the surface, the piece was about animal protection, but the story had little timeliness and it emphasized that the young deers were really innocent. Many people think that, the piece was insinuating the June Fourth suppress where military force killed thousands of innocent students. It is a concealing way that the state media shew sympathy and sorrow towards the student protesters in the Tiananmen Square.

Other Forms

People’s Daily also used various ways to persuade students to retreat and show the party leaders’ dissatisfaction to students’ radical movement, including “a letter from a honest Daily reader”, “a letter from an ordinary CCP member”, “a letter to PLA soldiers”, ”a talk between a League member and a student”, etc.


It can be very arbitrary to say that People’s Daily was opposed to student protest in 1989 spring. Actually, most of the articles and editorials were mild and persuasive, while a small proportion of the editorials were condemning. Maybe these two kinds of reports were serving different political goals, which also reflected a fierce struggle for power within the top leader group of the country and the CCP—some leaders prefer a gentle approach to calm down the disturbance, while others prefer a quick end in whatever means.


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