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Links 1 through 10 of 25 by David Bandurski tagged openness

In a piece published in the most recent edition of the official Party journal Qiushi (求是), and shared across China's internet today, Premier Wen Jiaobao (温家宝) calls for great government transparency, "creating the conditions for the people to monitor the government." The piece, drawn from Premier Wen's March 26 speech on clean governance at the State Council, comes right on the heels of the official announcement last week that former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai has been removed from the Party's Central Committee for "serious discipline violations."

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Last week the scandal surrounding socialite Guo Meimei (郭美美), 20, which rocked the state-run charity Red Cross Society of China in June when it emerged that Guo had received lavish gifts from a businessmen connected to the charity, resurfaced with a television interview by economist Lang Xianping (郎咸平) of Guo Meimei and her mother. Since the interview, Lang has been widely panned online for what many see as a soft-handed interview, in which he seems to have been more familiar with the facts of the affair than Guo Meimei herself. While many hoped the interview might offer further revelations about the case and bring some closure, it seems to have only raised more questions. Veteran journalists and Phoenix TV reporter Luqiu Luwei (闾丘露薇) remarked on Sina Weibo that Lang's interview "was a great failure." In an editorial today, columnist Chen Fang (陈方) writes: "The war of words over the Lang-Guo interview is happening because being a good economist doesn't mean you're a good interviewer."

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China's Ministry of Railways responded today to an online call for information about 29 people alleged to be still missing from the July 23 train collision in Wenzhou. Authorities denied that 29 people were unaccounted for in the disaster, which has drawn widespread anger to the government and the Ministry of Railways in particular. The ministry countered the online list by saying that 1 of those listed got off the train at Wuxi before the crash, and 3 others had already been listed among the dead. 

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Chinese media report today that Ministry of Railways chief Sheng Guangzu (盛光祖) warned at a forum this week that railway project construction must keep to planned construction periods based on "scientific" assessments and must not be expedited. For weeks now, but particularly since the July 23 high-speed rail crash, the ministry has been harshly accused of rushing projects to completion and disregarding safety concerns. Coverage of this railway ministry forum also further marks the shift in press coverage since the Central Propaganda Department issued restrictions on coverage of the rail crash story on July 29. More coverage in recent days has been one-sided, allowing the government, and particularly the railway ministry, to issue its own explanations without harsher questioning. 

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Guo Meimei (郭美美) launched a nationwide scandal back in June when she sported pictures of herself online with expensive cars and bags, and bragged about being the "general manager" of a local company linked to the Red Cross Society of China. As the Red Cross Society of China continues to grapple with the fallout from this scandal, Guo Meimei makes a television appearance with well-known Chinese economist Lang Xianping (郎咸平), or Larry Lang. Guo's mother also appears on the program, and at one point claims to have made millions on the stock market in the early 1990s -- a claim on which Chinese media have already cast doubt. For her part, Guo Meimei still seems childishly confused by the whole affair, not even sure how to characterize the relationship between the local Red Cross Commercial Society with which she was associated and the national Red Cross Society of China. Click on the headline above to watch the video. Review scandal at Link Asia: http://bit.ly/pGF8t5 

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Writing on Sina Weibo yesterday, He Yanguang (贺延光), a veteran photojournalist with China Youth Daily, wrote of his confusion at a Xinhua notice yesterday saying the central Party was demanding greater openness from government. We have our reading of the notice here: http://bit.ly/oiB3Jp
He Yanguang writes: "I don't understand! Xinhua News Agency says in an official notice today that there was a need to grasp openness [in the handling] of major sudden-breaking incidents and problems of key concern to the people . . . to thoroughly bring the supervisory role of the media into play, and to strengthen the monitoring [of government] by society . . . Well then, why in recent days have directives prevented media from asking questions and commenting, and made them pull countless pages overnight, so that resentment bristles in the media? Do they up there want to act like whores and build monuments to their chastity? Or is the propaganda department beyond the central Party's control?"

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In today's lead editorial in The Beijing News, journalist Cao Lin (曹林) writes that a new "donation information release platform" (捐赠信息发布平台) launched by the China Red Cross Society to reassure the public that funds are not being misused 'lacks a sense of responsibility towards donations." The editorial lays out a number of public concerns that have arisen since the platform was introduced earlier this week, including gaps between donations and listed amounts in the computer system and inexplicable rules (such as showing only individual donations of over 100,000 yuan, and only corporate donations of over 500,000 yuan). 

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Users on Chinese social media today shared an audio file in which relatives of July 23 train crash victims meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝) yesterday expressed their anger and disappointment with the government's handling of the crisis. This is an excellent first-hand look at the response from family members of those lost. A must-listen, even for those who can't understand Chinese -- the anger translates. 

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China's State Council has released the list of officials recently appointed to a special team charged with investigating the July 23 train crash in Wenzhou that left at least 29 people dead. The list, shared by legal scholar He Weifang (贺卫方) through his Sina microblog, includes a number of officials with the government's Ministry of Railways, which has been at the center of the crisis this week. He Weifang writes: "Officials from the railway ministry stand out [on the list]. They should decline [participation]. No one can be a judge of events that directly concern their own interests -- this is the most basic demand of procedural justice."

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Within virtually an instant Thursday evening, tens of thousands of web users on the Sina Weibo social media site shared posts making unsubstantiated claims that there were 216 fatalities in the July 23 train crash in Wenzhou. The current official figure is 39. Many users claimed the figure had come from a source at an insurance company. One user wrote: "The number of dead in the Wenzhou train collision is 216 people! 216! 216! 216! The source is a friend of Chinese ping-pong player Gong Wei (龚伟) who works at an insurance company and has confirmed it." Another user wrote: "The truth comes out. The death toll in this accident was 216! This has come out from an insurance company . . . The government said 39 people! Because a major accident in which more than 40 people die results in the direct dismissal of provincial-level leaders! That's why the number of dead has been covered up all along!"

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