By Xu Yufang
- Half a week has lapsed since the "Sunday Tremor" of
Beijing, and many cadres of the municipal government of
China's state capital are still mourning the political
sacrifice of their former mayor, Meng Xuenong.
random survey among a small sample of Beijing cadres
showed that most of them believed Meng had not committed
any mistake that deserved the punishment - being
unseated in a highly humiliating fashion.
Beijing did under-report its SARS [severe acute
respiratory syndrome] figures, but who else did not? Why
is there not a sacking in Guangdong, Hunan or Shanghai?"
asked a Beijing-based newspaper editor.
"Speaking from the view of logic, even if Meng's
sacking is necessary, it should not be before Zhang Mao,
the vice mayor with the portfolio of health and culture.
Furthermore, Zhang holds a master of law degree and is
supposed to be legality-minded. But he is still there,"
said the editor.
The top of China's hierarchy
had its own views. Meng's sacking served as a gesture to
the world that China had repented. Firing any lesser
personnel, for example Zhang, could not bring out that
result, explained a source close to the organizational
work units of the ruling Communist Party of China (CCP).
In fact, Meng had no reservations about agreeing
to that fate when it was handed down. His cooperative
manner would assure him another equally important
posting in the near future, said the source.
There were suggestions from outside China that
Meng's sacking was also for the balance of factional
equilibrium - since former health minister Zhang
Wenkang, a protege of former party chief Jiang Zemin,
was axed, someone from current party chief Hu Jintao's
camp also needed to go. Meng had a history of being
close to the Communist Youth League, Hu's power base,
and praised Hu personally in public early this year.
"The political scenario in Beijing now is not
that simplistic," commented the source, adding that
observers from outside had better wait a while longer
before making judgments.
From all the facts
gathered, the sacking of two ministerial-ranking cadres
came very suddenly.
Last Saturday, journalists
and correspondents in Beijing were notified about a news
conference to update the SARS situation in China and
particularly Beijing. The notice said both Zhang Wenkang
and Meng would preside. It turned out on Sunday that the
presiding cadre was Gao Qiang, with the new title of
permanent vice minister of health. Gao, an economics
academic, was previously a vice secretary general of the
State Council, China's cabinet.
It was after the
news conference that the sackings were announced.
Obviously, the decision to sack both was made on
April 16, during an emergency meeting of the standing
committee of the CCP Politburo. The meeting was called
on short notice, so short that at least three members,
Zeng Qinghong, Li Changchun and Luo Gan, had to cut
short inspection trips in various corners of the
Even Hu had to change his itinerary.
According to reliable sources, local cadres of Hunan
province were waiting on April 15 to accompany him to
pay a tribute to Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong,
the founding father of the People's Republic of China.
Then Hu's special aircraft bypassed them and flew all
the way to Beijing from Guangdong.
It is not
known yet whether the emergency meeting of China's
highest level of decision-making was prompted by what Hu
witnessed in Guangdong, Ground Zero of SARS for China
and the whole world. For sure, he was not exactly happy
with Guangdong cadres, so much so that he stayed away
from the opening of the Guangzhou Spring Trade Fair.
The main theme of the April 16 Politburo
standing committee meeting was transparency regarding
SARS. All local governments were urged to report the
real situation to the public fully and quickly. But that
was not all.
A special guideline on propaganda
works related to SARS was circulated to Shanghai and
neighboring cities on Friday. It was labeled "top
secret" and was not for the eyes of local cadres. No
copy of any form, including manuscript copying, was
allowed. Asia Times Online tried to learn the content,
but to no avail. The most ATol could discover was that
Shanghai and neighboring cities, Greater Shanghai, got
special treatment in reporting their SARS developments.
What could that mean?
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