Viewers ask: where is Hu?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2008, 12:00am

With state television filled with images of Premier Wen Jiabao at the disaster zone, a question has arisen: where are the other top leaders, who have disappeared from CCTV since the earthquake struck?

None of the other nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, except for Vice-Premier Li Keqiang - have appeared on television, usually a daily ritual.

'President Hu Jintao should speak to the people via live broadcast at a time when the country is experiencing its deadliest disaster in recent memory because he is the head of the state, the party and the army,' said Xiong Wenzhao, a professor of politics at Central University of Nationalities in Beijing.

Mr Li, the deputy head of the earthquake relief work command headquarters, was reported by CCTV's prime-time news to have chaired a meeting in Beijing.

Mr Hu has also chaired several Politburo meetings on relief work in the past three days. But state TV has eschewed beaming the images of the president in favour of an anchor reading a Politburo statement.

While admitting Mr Hu's absence from the public eye was bad public relations, Professor Xiong said the other top leaders should avoid the disaster area because visits might hamper rescue efforts.

'It is the State Council's duty to direct rescue operations and relief work,' Professor Xiong said. 'Other top leaders' visits to the region would not help but only complicate the rescue operation.'

However, leaders in Beijing could help Mr Wen with his command of frontline relief work, analysts said. They pointed out that Mr Hu had chaired meetings and spoken to foreign leaders such as US President George W. Bush about relief efforts.

Rumours are rife that Mr Wen declined to leave the region for a brief rest and replacement by Mr Li. Professor Xiong said it would be a good idea to take a break because 'he might not be able to physically stand up to long periods of non-stop work at the age of 60-something'.