Chinese official interviewed by reporter on ‘random’ train journey subject of online ridicule

Clip broadcast by Zhengzhou Television shows party chief Wu Tianjun talking to passengers on train

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 2:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 1:02pm

A Chinese official is being accused of pulling a PR stunt after he was interviewed by a journalist talking to passengers during a "random" journey on the subway.

In a 2.5-minute video clip broadcast by Zhengzhou Television on its evening news on Monday, Wu Tianjun, party chief of the capital city of Henan Province, was filmed buying ticket from a machine in the city’s newly-opened metro with his secretary before riding the packed metro train, standing, and talking to a dozen passengers about the new service shortly after 10am.

The broadcaster said in the video clip it was a coincidence that the reporter had run into Wu, who had just finished a meeting and had spontaneously decided to take the metro to return to the city government.

The clip, which came just two days after President Xi Jinping’s surprise visit to a steamed bun restaurant in Beijing, has raised more than a few eyebrows among web users. Xi was shown in images taken by fellow diners at the popular restaurant ordering steamed buns at the counter, paying out of his pocket and carrying his own tray before sitting down to enjoy his meal in a room full of people.

Cao Lin, a popular commentator on Sina Weibo, wrote on his account: “More news of ‘random encounters with bosses’ is to follow, on the bus, on the metro, in a noodle shop, or in a market.”

However, Xu Jin, the reporter who interviewed Wu in the video, told the Beijing News it was truly a “100 per cent random encounter” with Wu while he was out garnering passengers’ experiences of the metro on the first working day since it opened.

On Tuesday, the website of People’s Daily cited an unnamed official of Zhengzhou city committee as backing the claim that the metro ride was indeed impromptu. It said Wu was in a hurry to get to his next appointment and he decided to take the subway to avoid traffic congestion.

Watch: An excerpt of the Zhengzhou TV news report

“If he took a car to the forum…it would take 30 to 40 minutes….Wu was worried that he may be delayed on the road and he decided to take the new subway that has just been opened so that he could experience it and listen to people’s views at the same time,” the official told People’s Daily website.

The Zhengzhou city party committee has yet to make an official statement on the matter.

Still, suspicions prevail and some sharp-eyed netizens have dug out a picture of Wu dated July 26, 2011. It was uploaded online by a passerby in another alleged random encounter. Wu, then deputy party chief and acting mayor, was shown in the snapshot on a day when Zhengzhou suffered from heavy rain standing barefoot in knee-deep rain water with the deputy mayor, trying to clean clogged drain with their hands.