Mass protests have been ongoing now for several days in Hong Kong, presenting the Chinese government with one of the greatest and most difficult challenges that it has faced in years. Chinese information authorities, naturally, are working aggressively to censor all news of the protests on China's mainland, and state media is complying.
But the statiest Chinese state media outlet of them all, People's Daily, may have gone a little overboard in diverting attention from the Hong Kong news. On Tuesday evening local time, the official Twitter account of the People's Daily newspaper and media group tweeted this out:
10,000 pigeons go through anal security check for suspicious objects Tue, ready to be released on National Day on Wed pic.twitter.com/HitEpLMv8o— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) September 30, 2014
Now, I have no idea what a pigeon "anal security check" is, or what crimes you have to commit to be conscripted to conduct many thousands of them. But this is probably related to security concerns in ultra-security-conscious Beijing, which is celebrating China's National Day on October 1. National Day commemorates Communist China's founding and is sort of like the country's version of July 4.
This is not necessarily meant as a deliberate diversion from the events in Hong Kong — the People's Daily covers weird stuff all the time — but it is a reminder of the gaping absence of coverage in China of a story that has momentously huge importance for that country and its future. It's a reminder that state-owned media is an enormous public disservice in the most fundamental sense.
A theory: the level of crazy in @PDChina tweets is directly related to the size of Hong Kong's protests.— Austin Ramzy (@austinramzy) September 30, 2014
That's not to tar all journalists with state-run Chinese outlets — you might be surprised at how many are trying to gradually improve the system from within — but it is a pretty marked reminder of the failures of the Chinese state media as a system. Even if it does produce these occasional, unintentionally hilarious tweets.