Wen Jiabao

Wen Jiabao, ex-premier, pens 90th birthday poem to scholar Ye Jiaying

Tribute to leading scholar of classical Chinese literature puts ex-premier back in public eye

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 2:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 2:55am

Former premier Wen Jiabao has again garnered renewed public attention by writing a letter and a poem to scholar Ye Jiaying on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

Wen wrote to Ye that "old age is no deterrent to one who is committed", using the ambiguity of the language to suggest he could be talking about himself as well.

The former premier praised her contribution to the study of Chinese literature as well as her role in promoting Chinese culture internationally. Ye is a professor of classical Chinese literature at Nankai University and also a tenured faculty member at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Old age is no deterrent to one who is committed

Nankai University will today host an international symposium on ancient Chinese poetry to mark Ye's birthday.

Wen became known for his personal touch in dealing with disasters when he scrambled over rubble left by the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province wearing sneakers, hugging victims and shedding tears.

He has not gone quietly into retirement in the time-honoured custom of past Chinese statesmen. He has appeared in the public eye more than his former peers on the Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee. Wen stepped down during the once-in-a-decade leadership transition at the party congress in December 2012.

In December, Wen wrote a letter to Ng Hon-mun, a former Hong Kong delegate to the National People's Congress, to deny a report by The New York Times regarding his family's wealth. The article did not accuse Wen himself of any impropriety.

In the letter, Wen denied his office was leveraged for personal enrichment.

In October, Wen attended an event in honour of President Xi Jinping 's father - the late Xi Zhongxun, a leading reform figure.

Last month, the Southern Metropolis Weekly ran an article detailing the lives of retired members of the 17th Politburo Standing Committee.

According to the article, Wen is writing a new book and has recently met old friends.