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Jan 24, 2017

Party members should see messaging app WeChat’s as a public place and will get punished if they “groundlessly criticize” major policies, an article shared on WeChat by Party mouthpiece People’s Daily warned on Sunday.

The blog post lists nine questions and answers to guide Party members on how to use WeChat Moments, the app’s newsfeed-like social space. It emphasized that posts will be seen not only by family and friends, but also by everyone in the user’s contact list. “Moments has gradually become like other media,” the post reads. “[It] isn’t a private area, but a public place.”

The listicle, also republished by dangjian.cn, a website affiliated with the Party’s central publicity department, originates from a WeChat account called “Keep Up With the Party.” The account, which has nearly 100,000 subscribers, was started in February 2016 by Wang Xiaolian, a 32-year-old doctor from Beijing.

Wang told Sixth Tone that she thinks the Party’s ideology can help everyone in their work and daily life. “Some people say [the Party’s] theory is empty or abstract, but actually it’s very practical,” she said.

Wang’s father is a military veteran and she is married to a police officer. Several articles from her account have been republished by the WeChat account of the People’s Daily, including “Ten new terms about Party, government, and army; you really shoudn’t misuse them again,” and “Fifty nouns often used after the 18th National Party Congress and their explanations: Don’t fear your leaders’ questions again.”

The article about WeChat was written by a contributor, a 23-year-old university student and Party member. “[The article] aims to clarify some obscure knowledge, remind people to use WeChat Moments properly, and promote positive energy,” Wang said, using a Party buzzword.

The guidelines also urge Party members to educate those who distribute “negative energy” on Moments by “taking red faith as the most powerful weapon for resisting the penetration of Western ideologies.” It also warned candidates running for public office against using WeChat to win support.

The article follows several cases of Party members getting into trouble because of their social media posts.

A deputy police chief identified only by his surname Wu was disciplined in December 2015 for sharing an article that questioned “one country, two systems” — a Deng Xiaoping-era constitutional principle for the reunification of China. In the same year, Zhao Xinwei, editor-in-chief of regional Party newspaper Xinjiang Daily, was expelled from the Party after being accused of making “groundless comments” about major government decisions.

Most recently, three people — a government official, a TV producer, and a professor — were dismissed from their posts or forced to retire after they questioned the legacy of China’s revolutionary leader, Mao Zedong, on social media.

Other recent posts on “Keep Up With the Party” include listicles such as “Ten things Party member and cadres should know about WeChat’s red envelopes,” “Eleven don’ts for leadership cadres during Chinese New Year; don’t carelessly make mistakes,” and “Guide for Party members on how to cheer up your wife: 9 ways to make her elated.” The account’s most popular articles garner tens of thousands of clicks.

But despite her treasure trove of sound advice, Wang’s account is not exempt from administrative action when it crosses the Party line: A recent article titled “A dating guide for Party members and cadres: 18 questions” was deleted for its sensitive content.

(Header image: A young cadre looks at the screen of a tablet during a training course at the China Executive Leadership Academy in Shanghai’s Pudong New Area, Sept. 24, 2012. Carlos Barria/Reuters/VCG)