Chinese media typo calls President Xi Jinping the 'last leader'

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, The slip appeared in coverage of the annual National People's Congress

China's state news agency has had to issue a correction after it referred to President Xi Jinping as "China's last leader", an apparent copyediting error.

Xinhua later amended the copy, which had by then been widely reused, and asked outlets to change the reference to "China's top leader".

In the end many outlets simply removed Sunday's article in its entirety.

Such a mishap is extremely rare as references to China's president are believed to be closely scrutinised.

Chinese media is heavily regulated, with government censors often removing content on websites and social media.

The two phrases are just one character different, but are pronounced very differently.

Image caption, The top characters mean "last" the bottom mean "top"

The error comes as the government exerts increasingly strict control on the media. Similar mistakes in the past have had serious consequences for the journalists involved.

In December, four journalists were suspended after the China News Service - also controlled by the ruling party - accidentally reported President Xi's "resignation" (ci zhi), instead of "speech" (zhi ci), during a tour of Africa.

Censorship and arrests of journalists are on the rise and in 2015 China put 29 journalists behind bars, for a variety of alleged offences.

Mr Xi recently toured newsrooms in Beijing, calling for "absolute loyalty" to the Communist Party.

But just last week prominent Chinese financial magazine Caixin highlighted censorship of its content, in a rare and defiant move against the government.

It claimed on Monday, in an article published on its English-language website, that censors had deleted an interview on the issue of free speech. By Tuesday evening that article appeared to have been deleted as well.

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