A typo by China’s state news agency over the weekend resulted in President Xi Jinping being referred to as China’s “last” leader in a report on the annual session of the rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC).
Xinhua, a key media propaganda tool for the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), made the rare error while describing Xi.
Xi, according to many experts, is China’s most powerful presidents in decades.
Xinhua was quick to correct the error.
According to the Hong Kong-based Chinese newspaper Ming Pao, the news agency hurriedly circulated a correction, changing “last” to “top”, as in China’s top leader.
The two phrases are different by just one character in Chinese but are pronounced differently.
The original version was taken down and links for the article that were circulating were quickly found to be defunct.
It was not immediately clear whether heads would roll at Xinhua for the error. The news wire is China’s largest state-run news agency and other media houses are almost always directed to carry copies released by Xinhua on important events and sensitive topics.
The embarrassing mistake for Xinhua and the CPC comes at a time when the government is trying to tighten its rules on the already – and severely – restricted freedom of press.
Last month Xi went on a high-profile tour of state media houses – including Xinhua – where he urged journalists to align themselves completely with the CPC.
Last December, four journalists in another Chinese news agency were suspended following a similar typographical error, which resulted in a report that said Xi had resigned while giving a speech at the China-Africa summit in South Africa.
“The original version of a report filed by the China News Service – an official service that has a status similar to that of Xinhua – referred to Xi saying in his ‘resignatio’ that China and Africa had a shared destiny in their histories,” the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) had reported.
That error, according to the report, “happened only two days after Xinhua misspelled US President Barack Obama’s name in its Chinese translation as ‘Ao Ma Ba’ in a report about him meeting Xi”.