Senior Chinese diplomat and critic of mainland media Wu Jianmin, 77, dies in car accident

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 June, 2016, 3:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 June, 2016, 7:27pm

Influential senior Chinese diplomat Wu Jianmin was killed in a traffic accident in Hubei province on Saturday, state media reported.

Wu, 77, a former Chinese ambassador to France, the United Nations in Geneva and the Netherlands, had been outspoken about mainland media and actively promoted public diplomacy after retirement and was regarded as a dovish figure in China’s foreign policy.

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The French ambassador to China, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, has sent a message of condolence to Wu’s family.

We are deeply sorrowed at the news of Ambassador Wu’s death. The people of France have lost a great friend, who knew us well and had made an enormous contribution to France-China relations
Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, French ambassador to China

“We are deeply sorrowed at the news of Ambassador Wu’s death,” he said on the French embassy’s official social media account. “The people of France have lost a great friend, who knew us well and had made an enormous contribution to France-China relations.”

The accident happened at about 4am as Wu was travelling in a vehicle with four others from the airport to the centre of the city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, according to Xinhua news agency.

The vehicle had crashed into the central reservation as it reached the exit of a tunnel, Wuhan traffic police said on its official social media account.

Wu and Professor Zhu Xiaochi, of Wuhan University, who were seated in the back of the vehicle, both suffered critical injuries and later died in hospital.

Initial investigations had found that neither of the men had been wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. They suffered head and neck injuries in the crash after they were thrown forwards and struck the backs of the vehicle’s front seats, the People’s Daily reported.

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The driver of the vehicle, along with Wu’s secretary and another member of the university, all suffered slight injuries in the accident, but were now recovering in hospital, the police said.

The cause of the accident is now being investigated.

Prior to his career as an envoy overseas, Wu had served as an interpreter for Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and was also a spokesman for the foreign ministry.

He was also the former president of China Foreign Affairs University, the alma mater of numerous high-ranking Chinese diplomats, including incumbent foreign minister Wang Yi.

Wu was known for being a moderate in dealing with China’s differences with the West amid the significant rise of nationalism within the mainland in recent years.

In a speech in April, Wu criticised the popular nationalist tabloid, Global Times for printing “very extreme articles” and suggested its editor Hu Xijin was ignorant about foreign affairs.

However, Hu said the Global Times, published under the People’s Daily, was a positive asset for China’s diplomacy and that Wu was not good at using media resources.

After learning of Wu’s death, Hu – who is currently in Europe on a business trip – wrote on his Weibo social media account that he “was deeply shocked” by the news.

“Life is fragile and crises are like shadows that follow us ... I had arguments with Wu before, but different views that coexist at the same time form a valuable part of Chinese society,” he wrote.

The PLA Daily said in a Weibo post that even though there were disagreements about some of Wu’s views, China needed more diversified opinion as it continued to open up to the world.