The Spokesperson

When major incidents take place in China (like, for example, the Tianjin chemical disaster in 2015), it often takes the government days or even weeks to come out with any information. But in this modern age, social media spreads rumours among hundreds of millions of citizens within hours, and usually call the government to account. It has made every individual into an independent “broadcaster”. This defies the power of the Communist Party, undermines the already fragile trust in the government and sows the seeds of unrest. The Party has come up with a creative answer to this problem: recently, legislation has been passed for the introduction of special spokespeople to beat social media to the punch. Every party member who is responsible for more than 100,000 citizens, such as ministers, mayors, police commissioners, hospital directors or fire brigade commanders, are required to follow special training to be able to act as a spokesperson.

Steven Dong is the founding father of the training programme for spokespeople. Director Pieter Fleury has unique access to Steven and his training programme, allowing him to closely follow the trainee spokespeople in this documentary and investigate whether the transparency that Steven aims for is good for the people or for the Party.