Wed, Nov 01, 2000 - Page 8 News List

No wonder Jiang became so angry

By Paul Lin 林保華

Angered by questions from Hong Kong reporters, Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) roared and thundered at them during a meeting with Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) on Oct. 27. Within four minutes, he lunged three times toward the reporters, clenched his fist, stared and screamed at them, using a mixture of Mandarin, English and Cantonese.

What question did the reporters raise that made Jiang lose his composure? Vice Premier Qian Qichen (錢其琛), who is charge of Hong Kong affairs, had met the previous day with Tung in Beijing. Qian expressed his support not only for Tung but also for his re-election bid. Qian's remarks were widely criticized in the Hong Kong media.

By means of a handshake, Jiang made it clear before Hong Kong's handover in 1997 that Tung was his choice for SAR chief executive. Jiang's gesture, which had a instructive effect on the small circles of "patriotic" voters, was described as an "imperial order" (欽定) by the Hong Kong media.

This time, Qian discarded his fig leaf and said openly that he supported Tung serving another term as chief executive. He laid bare Beijing's naked interference in Hong Kong. The impudent reporters asked Jiang whether such a move amounted to an "imperial order" -- a question that pricked "Emperor" Jiang's heart. As a result, he gave them an unprecedented diatribe.

"You are too young, after all. Do you understand what it means? I tell you I've gone through hun-dreds of battles. I've seen a lot! Which Western country have I not been to? You've got to know Wallace from the US [CBS reporter Mike Wallace, who interviewed Jiang in New York before the UN General Assembly meeting in early September] is way better than you. I had a good chat with him."

"You run faster than Western reporters, but the questions you ask are too simple, sometimes naive. Do you understand? I am sorry. I am speaking to you as an elder. I am not a journalist, but I have seen a lot! You will have to take responsibility for deviations in your reports. Don't you kick up all this talk about an `imperial order.' And you want to criticize me! You people are naive! I am angry!"

Jiang showed his sense of inferiority and guilt. His brow-beating was a stark contrast to the grin he wore when faced with challenging questions from Mike Wallace. There are a few reasons why he fumed publicly.

One, he has not been able to pull himself out of the Falun Gong (法輪功) quagmire. There were plans by a large number of Falun Gong members to converge on Tiananmen Square on Oct. 25, one year after the National People's Congress passed legislation to suppress the group. Opposition to Jiang's high-handed measures is also growing within Beijing's high-level leadership.

Two, he has lost face in North Korea, where a Chinese military delegation was given a cold shoulder recently. Playing the US card, Kim Jung-il gave US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright a warm welcome. Jiang has postponed his North Korea visit as a result.

Three, Hong Kong's political and economic environment has gone from bad to worse since its handover, so Tung is facing strong opposition and Beijing's "one country, two systems" model is proving a negative example for Taiwan. The fact that Tung has become a hopeless loser is a big embarrassment for Jiang.

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