Just 29 and already mayor. The big question is: who is his father?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 June, 2009, 12:00am

A 29-year-old official's meteoric rise up the political ladder has made him the latest target for the mainland's 'human-flesh' search engines.

Zhou Senfeng, born in Henan and a masters graduate from Tsinghua University, was named mayor of Yicheng city, Hubei, on Sunday after receiving the unanimous approval of its 221-member People's Congress.

Mr Zhou has been promoted four times since his transfer to Yicheng 10 months ago. He was previously deputy party secretary of the city, which has a population of 230,000. Before Yicheng he was in Xiangfan, where he was deputy head of the city's construction bureau and urban planning bureau chief.

His stellar political career has earned him attention from the media and netizens, who have made him the target of human-flesh search engines - an online collaborative search usually used to name and shame individuals who outrage the public.

At Google.cn, Mr Zhou's name and the words 'family background' became the hottest search yesterday, while netizens created a new bulletin board called 'guess who is Zhou Senfeng's dad' at Baidu.com. Almost all posts talking about the country's youngest mayor suggested his promotion might have more to do with his family background than ability.

A netizen wrote that there were another 181 postgraduate-degree holders from Tsinghua University who had been appointed by Xiangfan city, but only Mr Zhou enjoyed such an impressive career. He urged authorities to make public the new mayor's family background.

Netizens questioned how the 221 voters could all back Mr Zhou when he was a political novice who had only been in the city for 10 months.

But the new mayor refused to respond to the numerous questions about his promotion, rejecting interview requests from the media.

Mr Zhou appears to have the freelance internet monitors - who help the government to keep tabs on 'unhealthy' content and steer public opinion - on his side.

'I feel Mr Zhou's family background is not important to the people because he has already been appointed,' wrote one monitor, as a regular netizen. 'No matter who a senior official's father is, as long as he can help the people to lead a better life, we should trust the voting at the city's People's Congress.'