Open letter demands governor step down

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 March, 2010, 12:00am

At least 210 journalists and intellectuals have signed an open letter calling for the impeachment and resignation of Hubei governor Li Hongzhong, who hit the headlines last week for snatching a recorder from a journalist on the sidelines of the National People's Congress.

The letter, which began to circulate yesterday, said many were further disappointed by Li's refusal to apologise. Li said earlier that he snatched the recorder because he was not sure about the identity of the reporter as she stuttered when asked about the media she represented.

But media reports said Li angrily grabbed the recorder from Beijing Times journalist Liu Jie after he was asked about the case of pedicurist Deng Yujiao , who stabbed an official to death for trying to rape her. The incident is a public embarrassment to the Hubei government.

The letter described Li's action as a 'violent and gross display'.

'Judging from Li Hongzhong's statements and actions, he has forsaken civilised politics and approaches his civic duty with ego and arrogance. In the incident of the snatching of the pen recorder, the victim by and far is not just the one reporter involved,' it said.

Among those who signed the unusually harsh letter were famous blogger Bei Feng , writer Sha Yexin , journalists Chang Ping and Guo Yukuan , and academics Cui Weiping and Hu Yong . It said Li's poor governance had led to series of public order crisis in Hubei last year, including a riot in Shishou city in June.

'Looking strictly at the public realm, Hubei province, under Li Hongzhong's governance, has been embroiled by one controversy after another. The Deng Yujiao case itself was one of pernicious rural officials breaking the law and the impudence of local government officers in trying to cover it up, from charging the victim with manslaughter to the monitoring, beating and expulsion of journalists, all carried out with no apparent concern over sacrificing rule of law in the name of protecting a small number of officials,' the letter said.

'During the Shishou incident ... Li Hongzhong's initial response of making excuses in a weak attempt to avoid responsibility was followed by the use of force as means to put down the unrest ...

'We hereby leave it to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to explore the nature of Li Hongzhong's improper conduct and to monitor future developments; ... to see to it that Li Hongzhong issues a public apology; and, with the utmost gravity, examine his suitability to serve as a National People's Congress representative, following which, to deliver to him an order to accept responsibility for his actions and deliver his resignation.'

At least 210 people, including some from Hong Kong, had signed the letter by last night.

A separate, milder, open letter was issued by five famous intellectuals who called for a public apology from Li. The signatories included Zhou Ruijin , a former People's Daily editor famous for promoting Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, and Yu Jianrong , of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who specialises in rural and petition issues.

Li's remarks were 'a slap in Premier Wen Jiabao's face' as he violated Wen's work report.