Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao admitted that the students he met with at the elite Peking University on May 4, ostensibly for an informal chit-chat, had first been vetted and selected. Bloggers thought that Wen had said what was on everyone else’s mind.
According to a Radio Free Asia report, Wen talked with students in the library and ate lunch with them, marking China Youth Day. At one point, according to student Internet postings, Wen said, “I had asked the school before I came not to arrange anything and not to keep the students in the buildings when I got here.” Wen explained that he often was in the situation that the students who sat around him were all chairs of student organizations. “Needless to say that was pre-arranged,” said Wen.
Some bloggers commented that Wen finally said what everyone else wanted to say. One wrote, “The Oscar winner has a new performance.”
Xiong Peiyun, associate professor at Nankai University and a media commentator, said the fact that Wen declared his stand in public will have a positive influence. “He often stops by a place unannounced so he can talk to all kinds of people. I believe his intention is good, and he hopes to have more frank and honest exchanges of opinions with the people.”
Media commentator Lian Yue expressed a different view on his Twitter. “It’s nice not wanting pre-arranged student audiences, but how hard is it to walk into a group of random students? … It really comes down to whether you want to listen to the truth or not.”
According to Xia Yeliang, professor of economics at Peking University, this wasn’t the first time Wen had made a good speech, but nothing happened afterward. “I think this is an open secret. China's top leaders all know this is the way it goes. However, in the past, the hidden rule was that everyone would just play a role and nobody would expose it. But this time, it was the premier who revealed the fact. I am not sure what his thought was.
'Maybe there are too many falsifications in China. Maybe he wanted to use this to seek a way out, but I do not hold out hope for that. He’s been in office for many years, and he often says something uplifting, but there is no follow-up. Is it really that hard for a Premier to achieve or push for something?”
Xia wondered whether it is that the system is so stubborn that even a premier cannot make changes, or rather, whether it’s that the Premier does not really want to change the political system.
In Xinhua’s report, no mention was made of Wen’s comment regarding the arranged meeting. He was quoted encouraging the students to improve in their science and democracy studies, and repeating, “Justice and righteousness are more significant than sunshine.”