Chinese propaganda official calls PM Wen Jiabao “troublemaker”, grapevine says
A deputy director of China’s Central Propaganda Department bluntly accused Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao of being a troublemaker. According to officials of the Department then at the scene, he lost control when he was reprimanding his subordinate who came from Guangdong to Beijing to brief the boss about the work.
The deputy head has just ordered the Guangdong-based Southern Daily Press Group to be reshuffled and “rectified,” and demanded that “Inappropriate staff members should be urged to resign;” “Southern Daily belongs to the Communist Party; it should not an anti-Communist headquarters.”
[Note: Southern Daily Press Group is renowned for owning a number of publications that are outspoken, liberal-leaning and constantly pushing the envelope of press freedom, and is therefore a pain in the neck to Central Propaganda Department and its censors. The media group has just been pressured by the authorities into sacking an influential editor.]
The reason why he lost control: After Premier Wen Jiabao held an unprecedented meeting with petitioners and said the government welcomes criticism, most media outlets were fully aware that they should restrain coverage, as Xinhua did not issue any press release for that matter, except newspapers in Guangdong Province, and Southern Daily Press Group in particular. An official said that Propaganda Department was pretty pissed off. But Guangdong’s Propaganda taskmaster used to be Wen Jiabao’s secretary, who they cannot afford to mess with. Therefore, when this Guangdong-based subordinate came to give an account of the work, the deputy head availed himself of this opportunity to take it out on him.
According to the grapevine, the deputy head of the Central Propaganda Department said that Wen Jiabao “is anxious to see the world in disorder” and an demagogue; that for courting fame and making a gesture, Wen paid no heed to the circumstances and met with petitioners. He’s got a good reputation as the first premier ever to meet with petitioners in 61 years but has made Beijing very nervous. The only solution is to gag the press. Otherwise, after the Chinese New Year, petitioners from all over the country may flood into Beijing, an ill timing for the Two Sessions. [Note: March is often thought to be China’s political month as law makers and political advisers nationwide gather in Beijing for National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.] He went on to say that Wen Jiabao just wanted to make waves during the Two Sessions and during the final year and half in his political career.
The deputy director later realized made a bad gaffe by criticizing the premier in front of the official from Guangdong, and invited the cadre to lunch, trying to offset the likely bad consequence.