Chinese Premier Urges Local Leaders to 'Speak the Truth'

Chinese Premier Urges Local Leaders to 'Speak the Truth'
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is in the closing session of the Chinese rubber stamp legislature conference in Beijing, China, on May 27, 2020. (Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)
Frank Yue

Chinese premier Li Keqiang requested local leaders to speak the truth about their region’s economic situation during a recent video conference, according to China's State Council.

On Nov. 20, Li hosted an online seminar on China’s current economic situation, and local leaders from Heilongjiang, Shandong, Hunan, Guangdong, and Yunnan provinces attended the meeting.

Li kicked off his speech with three questions: “How is your local area's economic situation since the beginning of this year?” “What's your next work plan?” "Any suggestions about China's macro economic policy?”

Li warned that the international community, including China, is currently facing great economic uncertainty, according to Chinese media reports.

Li encouraged the participants to speak freely. "Only when you speak the truth can we roll out solid policies," he emphasized.

It is noteworthy that Li's call for an open and honest discussion was not reported in the State Council’s English-language website, but only in the Chinese-language version.

Speaking the Truth ‘Is as Dangerous as Drug Smuggling’

The ruling history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has shown that those who dare to speak the truth could face harsh punishment and even death.
In July 1957, Mao Zedong, then-chairman of the CCP, launched a political campaign to purge dissenters or critics who spoke against the regime. In order to identify dissenters, Chinese intellectuals were encouraged to “criticize the CCP” and “help identify its vulnerabilities in order to make improvements.” However, outspoken critics soon found themselves labelled as “rightists” or “anti-revolutionaries.” They were persecuted to death, imprisoned, sent to labor camps, and humiliated in public. Many were left destitute after authorities took away their livelihood. According to an official record, at least 550,000 were killed during the Anti-Rightist Campaign that lasted until 1959. But researchers estimate the actual number of victims could be over two million.
The CCP has also purged its own members who have failed to toe the Party line or questioned high authority. For example, Peng Dehuai, the former minister of defense under Mao, was critical of the agricultural policies of the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s. Under the campaign, over 30 million people starved to death. Peng was persecuted to death for allegedly exposing widespread falsified grain yields at that time.
The CCP continues to conceal the truth. It has covered up the spread of the coronavirus when it first broke out in Wuhan city late last year, and soon spread across China and to over 200 countries and territories around the world. The pandemic has claimed nearly 1.4 million lives, as of Nov. 23.
The whistleblowers, including Dr. Li Wenliang, were labelled as "rumor-mongers" and silenced by the local police when they tried to alert the public about the outbreak in Wuhan.
People attend a vigil to mourn for doctor Li Wenliang in Hong Kong on Feb. 7, 2020. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
People attend a vigil to mourn for doctor Li Wenliang in Hong Kong on Feb. 7, 2020. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted that the city government didn’t disclose news about the outbreak in a timely manner and indirectly called out his higher-ups for mismanaging the crisis, according to an interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Jan. 27.

In an exclusive interview with The Epoch Times on Sept. 13, 2017, Tan Song, a former associate professor of journalism at Chongqing Normal University, said: “Speaking the truth is a highly risky thing in our country. Sometimes it's as dangerous as drug smuggling."

Tan has interviewed over 500 people from all walks of life throughout his career. He was fired from the university for writing books that criticized communist China's modern history.

Frank Yue is a Canada-based journalist for The Epoch Times who covers China-related news. He also holds an M.A. in English language and literature from Tianjin Foreign Studies University, China.