Chinese internet users have evaded censors to take potshots at President Hu Jintao’s assessment of his performance in a farewell speech, saying the country is walking down a dead-end road in “broken shoes”.
Hu launched a week-long Communist Party congress in Beijing on Thursday with a speech that touted his political leadership but also warned in stark terms of worsening problems such as corruption that threaten the party’s legitimacy.
However, Hu also insisted that only the party was capable of guiding the world’s second-biggest economy.
“We must not take the old path that is closed and rigid, nor must we take the evil road of changing flags and banners,” the party’s outgoing general-secretary said in the speech.
Users of the country’s hugely popular microblogging sites – the only major forum for relatively open expression in the tightly controlled country – reacted with cynicism.
“No matter if it’s the new or old road, if you put on two broken shoes, how can you walk down a good path?” said one user of Sina Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like microblogging service.
Another Weibo user responded: “Won’t walk down the old path. Won’t walk down the wrong path. We only go down a dead end.”
The Communist Party has presented a tightly-scripted image of national unity ahead of its 18th congress, a meeting expected to end with Vice President Xi Jinping taking the party’s reins from Hu – and the presidency next March.
This image has been damaged by a major political scandal surrounding former rising star Bo Xilai, and revelations about the huge wealth being amassed by the families of senior leaders.
In his address, Hu warned the Communist Party faces “collapse” if it fails to clean up corruption. But some Weibo posts questioned the party’s commitment.
“If there are no specific measures, it will become empty words,” said one post.
“They have been talking about tackling corruption for many years, but it has continued to grow. Therefore, the more talk there is, the less is done. This is because there is no way of dealing with this. So the situation gets worse.”
Some also took aim at Hu’s claim the party would aim to “double 2010 GDP and per capita income” by the year 2020.
“Can we not be treated like fools?” a netizen said.
“For 10 years income has gone up, but for 10 years prices have also increased. Don’t talk nonsense, OK?”
Despite the pungent comments that leaked through, official censorship of internet chatrooms appeared to have been stepped up with very little comment available on China’s most important political event.
Most searches for congress-related information were blocked on Sina Weibo.
China has a vast system of internet censorship aimed at blocking or deleting information deemed embarrassing to the party.