Wen Jiabao

Chance for Li Keqiang to speak out ruled out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2008, 12:00am

It could have been a great chance for Li Keqiang - shaping up to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao - to display political vision and exude personality before a full house of curious domestic and overseas journalists.

At Mr Wen's annual press conference at the close of the National People's Congress meeting, the new executive vice-premier was asked by a journalist from a German news agency to expound on his political convictions, as 'your role in the Chinese politics will get bigger and bigger'.

Before Mr Li - a stripling of 52 presented by Mr Wen as 'the youngest member in the cabinet' - and his boss had a chance to say anything, NPC spokesman Jiang Enzhu ruled the question out of order.

'This is Premier Wen's press conference and Vice-Premier Li will have other chances to meet the press in the future,' the spokesman said.

Mr Wen's press conference is very much a creature of censorship mentality, with most questions screened beforehand.

Such management is considered necessary, with the event broadcast live on national television and watched by millions.

But the nearly two-hour question-and-answer session was almost hijacked by the ongoing protest in Tibet , with almost half of the questions - five out of 13 - about it.

Another so-called T-question - referring to the sensitive topics of Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen - was also inevitably raised as Taiwan's presidential election is to be held on Saturday.