Former premier Zhu Rongji criticised Hong Kong's media, describing them as being filled with invective, during a session of a Hong Kong delegation to the National People's Congress in March 2001, according to his book, which was published yesterday.
The four-volume work, Record of Zhu Rongji's Talks, is more than 2,000 pages thick and is published in Chinese only. It includes more than 300 articles of the retired leader's speeches, talks, letters and written instructions from 1991 to 2003, when he served as vice-premier and premier.
Zhu, 82, was known to read several Hong Kong newspapers every day. He said he found that many of the articles hurled invective at him, while he found no such criticism in the mainland's censored media.
'Criticism can be sharp, and this is what press freedom means. But it is better that [you] are not harsh enough - do not hurl abuse and speak sarcastically,' he told the Hong Kong delegates at the national legislature's annual session.
He said he laughed when he read that one Hong Kong newspaper article described him as being like a godfather of the Cosa Nostra mafia in Italy. 'Do not let such inexplicable matters affect Hong Kong's stability,' he told the delegates.
In his first cabinet meeting as premier, Zhu, known for his fierce sense of probity and no-nonsense style, showed his disdain for political dissemblers by asking his cabinet members to serve the people wholeheartedly and truthfully, even if it meant offending some bureaucrats and others in power.
'If this government is full of [these types of people] who try not to offend anybody, we will have only done a disservice to the people,' he said in a State Council meeting in March 1998.
In the last cabinet meeting he chaired, in early 2003, he said that, as premier, his top concern was to improve the lives of the people.
'What is the premiership for, if I, as a premier, do not concern myself with people's hardships and sufferings,' he said.
Zhu added that whenever he came across such hardships, through internal reports or the mass media, he would immediately call up the related minister or the regional party secretary to try to solve the issues.
Before his retirement in March 2003, Zhu expressed his concerns about the overheating economy, which was largely due to regional governments' rush to develop property, and about industrial developments such as car manufacturing.
Both sectors have proved to be hot-button issues for his successor, Wen Jiabao . Property and car production have become two pillar industries supporting the mainland's double-digit growth and have been the main sources of revenue for local governments in the past decade.
Issues arising from these two areas have also become the key causes of social, economic and environmental problems today.