Princeling Shanxi Governor Li Xiaopeng pledged yesterday to venture down coal pits often to promote mine safety.
At his first press conference to include overseas reporters since he became governor in January, Li, the son of hardline former premier Li Peng , said: "I will still go down coal pits often to be with miner brothers to promote safe coal production."
Official media reported that Li, 53, visited coal miners working 500 metres underground before the Lunar New Year holiday last month. But the clean faces and white gloves of Li and his entourage in an accompanying photo were ridiculed online.
Li appeared to be well aware of controversies surrounding him, joking yesterday that he attracted such a swarm of journalists during the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress on Tuesday that he feared there would be a stampede.
"I have been making an effort to ensure safe production in Shanxi and if I caused a stampede, or an accident in Beijing, then I would be in deep trouble," he said.
Some online postings demanded Li's resignation after repeated cover-ups of workplace accidents in Shanxi, including an explosion in a tunnel blast and a massive chemical spill. Li denied responsibility for any cover-ups and urged greater transparency.
Shanxi's abysmal coal mine safety record damaged the careers of many of Li's predecessors, with mainland media calling his post a seat above a volcano vent. He is the province's fifth governor in nine years.
When asked how long he expected to be governor, Li said: "The responsibility is as heavy as Tai Mountain and of course I am under heavy pressure with a Tai Mountain above my head."
Apparently much more articulate than his father, he went on to recite slogans saying all difficulties could be solved with "the backing of the Communist Party and the support of the people".
Li is no stranger to controversy. The ex-chairman of electricity giant Huaneng Power garnered the lowest number of votes and barely made it as an alternate member of the party's elite Central Committee at the party's national congress in November.