Li started his trip on the morning of Aug. 18, visited the people whose houses had been submerged, the metro tunnel where passengers were killed by the flood, and the farmlands that had been inundated by floodwater.
During the trip, Li disciplined officials and vowed to hold officials accountable for mistakes during the floods.
State-run media didn’t report on the trip until late in the night of Aug. 19. People knew of Li’s trip from two cellphone shots with low-quality videos that the State Council—China’s central government that is led by Li—posted on its official website.
Normally, Chinese state-run Xinhua and CCTV report on leaders’ trips within hours.
Overseas Chinese affairs commentators said they believed that the delay of the state-run media report was a reflection that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) head Xi Jinping doesn’t trust Li, and that Li might retire after his current term terminates in 2023.
Li was the CCP boss of central Henan Province—a major agricultural province—and then northeastern Liaoning Province—a major industrial province. He was promoted to be a member of the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 and then vice premier in 2008. He had once been seen as a potential future leader of China before being eclipsed by Xi in 2012.
Li Keqiang’s Trip
Li had visited Hebi, Weihui, and Zhengzhou cities in Henan on Aug. 18, and hosted a conference in Zhengzhou on Aug. 19, in which he ordered the provincial government to rebuild the regions which were submerged during the floods and help the flood victims.
The two short videos that the State Council published contained more information than the report run on state-run media Xinhua.
One video recorded Li’s visiting metro line 5 of Zhengzhou city, where the regime announced on July 27 that 14 people died in the flood on July 20. Many people in Zhengzhou believe the death toll must be higher.
In the two-minute-long video, Li asked for the water level of the flood when several hundred passengers had been trapped inside the tunnels for hours. He then ordered the city government to punish the related officials who didn’t cut off the service when the floodwater started to enter the metro and didn’t arrange the rescue in a timely manner.
“After these heavy casualties … we should learn from it. … When there’s a warning of special or extreme cases, the city should close and stop whatever should be closed and stopped,” Li said.
The shut-down of services before disasters that Li mentioned also includes the highway tunnels inside the city, where hundreds of vehicles were inundated during the flood, with an unknown number of people dying inside.
Li also asked the cities to not only focus on surface construction, but also need to build the “inside,” such as the sewer system, disaster warning system, and buildings’ qualities.
In the other video that the State Council posted, Li visited villagers who tried to clean the flood water from their houses, and visited fields where crops were inundated by the flood and died.