Sunday, 10 July 2011

Breaking News... Or Not?

Speculation is rife over the state of Jiang's health
When former President Jiang Zemin did not make an appearance for the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party of China celebrations on July 1, there have been rumours speculating over what happened to him.

And earlier this week on July 6 Hong Kong journalism and mainland censorship came to a head when ATV broke the news that Jiang was dead.

Some China experts knew that Jiang was seriously ill for a while at No. 301 Hospital, and on that day ATV received word that he had no signs of life. The news team speculated the news would be announced on CCTV's nightly news at 7pm so the Hong Kong channel thought it would beat the state-owned broadcaster with the story at 6:36pm.

However no such announcement was made.

The next day the central government's liaison office expressed "outrage" over the report, saying ATV was "seriously breaching professional news ethics", according to the Beijing-backed Hong Kong China News Agency.

Xinhua also rejected speculation over the death of the 84-year-old Jiang. "Recent reports of some overseas media organizations about Jiang Zemin's death from illness are pure rumour," the news agency said.

So who is telling the truth?

What's interesting is that Xinhua blasts "overseas media organizations", when Hong Kong is a part of China. Or is it just convenient in this case to call ATV a foreign news body?

Also, Xinhua prides itself as being the official news outlet of the government, so any stories that are not announced by the state-owned news agency first are considered "rumours".

But the story does not end there.

ATV's main shareholder is Wang Zheng who is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee, the central government's top advisory body. He is also a "princeling", as he is the stepson of late Communist leader Shu Tong, the Shandong First Party Secretary in the 1950s and deputy director of the PLA Academy of Military Science in the 1970s.

Wang is also assumed to be very connected as it is alleged his late mother Wang Yunfei was the cousin of Wang Yeping, Jiang's wife.

Knowing it had a potential bombshell in its hands ATV surely made all the relevant fact checks with the story... or did it?

After ATV came out with the story, Wang Zheng denied knowing anything about the story. "I learned the 'news' only when I saw the ATV broadcast," he said on Thursday.

And now ATV news staff are angry with Wang for trying to extricate himself from the scandal and they have written letters to senior board members complaining about the main shareholder's actions.

When Wang acquired majority shares in ATV last year he vowed to transform Hong Kong's oldest TV station into "Asia's CNN".

Apparently since then staff claim he has been interfering by asking them to entertain his friends from the mainland, tinkering with program timing and upsetting marketing and advertising plans.

A staffer who was unnamed in a newspaper report also added the source of the Jiang story and the decision to run it came from outside the newsroom, fueling speculation over the identity of the person.

So while morale at ATV is at an all-time low and tries to recover from having to apologize over the incident, we're still wondering -- what's the state of Jiang's health?

With the reaction of Xinhua and the government it looks like it'll be a state secret -- for now.


  1. 'too rush will be a crime. just nice and easy does it.....'

  2. pity the great party leader who can't even die a natural death.