After 5 days Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao finally visited the site of Saturday’s tragic train crash. He promised his people a probe into the incident, which was first blamed on lightning, and then finally on mechanical failure.
“Those who were responsible for the accident should be severely punished… May they rest in peace,” said Wen. “We will find out the reason and give the victims an explanation.”
Except that he didn’t give an explanation in his speech at all, despite the fact that Railway Bureau insiders have been speaking out, citing intrinsic design problems with the trains as the cause of the accident.
Wen has, however, been handing out punishments.
The day after the crash, three high-ranking rail officials from Shanghai Railway Bureau, including the bureau director and Party secretary, were fired.
Not to say that that was enough for many Chinese, who still wondered why Wen did not visit the crash site sooner. He did answer that question, and in a manner that is unprecedented for a Chinese leader.
In a striking admission, the 69-year-old leader, affectionately known as Grandpa Wen, said Thursday that his arrival in Wenzhou had been delayed because he’d been laid up in bed for 11 days. “Over this time I’ve been ill,” Mr. Wen said at a news conference, though he didn’t say what the illness was. “The doctor only today reluctantly allowed me to check out of hospital.”
Except that Xinhua (a Chinese state-media outlet) ran a report on the 24th, the day after the crash, that showed Wen meeting and shaking hands with a Japanese trade delegation. Wen has been first on the scene after past disasters- like the 2008 earthquake, for example. So who’s lying here? Did a dog eat Wen’s homework?
Xinhua later said that they mis-translated Wen’s words, and that instead of “hospital”, he had actually said “sick bed.”
Regardless, this is a damaging admission. When rumours that former President Jiang Zemin was ill started circulating this month, Chinese authorities were quick to squash and block discussions about it on social media. State-media joined in too, by promptly running stories denying the rumours.
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