Leaders out to show they're less square

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 October, 2004, 12:00am

Kissing children, kicking shuttlecocks and trying out cutting-edge telephones, leaders showed their playful sides yesterday while meeting holidaymakers in Beijing for the National Day holiday.

In a carefully choreographed publicity exercise, the nine top leaders of the Communist Party were shown on state television last night visiting parks, chatting with people enjoying the holiday and even trading steps with young dancers from Xinjiang .

Departing from the party's normally staid holiday protocol - such as planting trees - the nine Politburo Standing Committee members were shown mingling with crowds in five major parks in Beijing.

The public appearances were apparently part of a media blitz to highlight 'people first', the new style of leadership of President Hu Jintao . On evening television, a beaming Mr Hu was shown chatting with a crowd in Zhongshan Park. Accompanied by Beijing party boss Liu Qi , Mr Hu hugged and kissed every child who passed his way. He even played games and painted with children.

Most outstanding was Vice-President Zeng Qinghong , who visited the China Museum of Ethnic Culture with security boss Luo Gan . The pair tried out new-style telephones made on the mainland and Mr Zeng danced with the Xinjiang dancers - although he was out of step most of the time.

Premier Wen Jiabao , meanwhile, took a boat ride with Vice-Premier Wu Yi and Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan at Beihai Park.

They were greeted by Young Pioneers, being groomed by the Communist Party. The youngsters sang the revolutionary song I Dedicate My Petroleum to My Motherland to the premier.

Other top leaders such as Jia Qinglin and Li Changchun put their personal charm on display as well. They visited the Temple of Heaven and played shuttlecock with the crowd.

The leaders' contact with the masses was carefully controlled, however, with the venues they visited closed to public while they met select groups of people inside.