Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Trying to Call the Premier's Bluff

The much-anticipated book Wen Jiabao: China's Best Actor is on sale in some book stores in Hong Kong, but not yet in the major chains.

The Chinese-language book is a collection of essays that analyze and comment on Chinese government policy in foreign affairs, economics, education, culture and human rights during Wen's premiership.

Author Yu Jie, 37, told Radio Television Hong Kong that mainland police had threatened him with jail if the book was published. He added he didn't consider Wen to be a great leader.

Publisher Bao Pu of New Century Press said 5,000 copies had been printed so far. He approached Yu around April or May and decided to publish the book because he thought people would be interested in reading it.

"I did not consider the views of the mainland [authorities]," he said. "We are a Hong Kong publisher. I just considered whether it was legal to publish it in Hong Kong."

The main bookstores are probably reading copies of the book first to see how sensitive it is before deciding to sell it in their stores.

However, with such a provocative title, who can resist taking a peek? Yu contends that Wen pretends to empathize with citizens, especially during disaster situations so that they will continue to have faith in the government.

Yu gives the example of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

"Premier Wen was the first high-ranking official to show up and appeared very emotional," he told ABC News. "He offered his condolences to the local school parents and promised to investigate why and how the schools collapsed.

"Two years later, however, he has still yet to issue any comforting reports to the Chinese public. No corrupt officials or developers associated with those officials were punished in any way."

Yu also feels the publication of the book is another exercise in freedom of speech in order to voice criticism of the government.

In an interview with BBC's Chinese service, he explained, "Wen Jiabao and [Chinese President] Hu Jintao are like the two sides of a coin. They are on a tandem bike, heading in the same direction. I think they are playing the good-guy-bad-guy routine, like the harsh-dad-loving-mum sort of thing.

"But they share the same goal, which is to strengthen their power base. I think they have more in common than differences. That's why I don't agree with the unrealistic view held by many Western scholars and China observers, as well as many Chinese people, that Wen is a reformist, that he is more open. I have a different view, which may not necessarily be the right one, but needs to be voice."

Good luck to Yu and hopefully he manages to avoid jail time. Otherwise, Bao worries that Yu may face a long prison term similar to Liu Xiaobo who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion. While the book is banned in China, like Zhao Ziyang's memoirs, Wen Jiabao: China's Best Actor could find its way into the mainland electronically. And the more people read it, they may gain the courage to finally say the emperor has no clothes on.

1 comment:

  1. in many ways it is true that hu-wen are two sides of the same coin. i admire the courage of the author and the publisher for such a noble act. the power of the people should be behind them in order to sway the leadership to a more open society.