By Joseph Cheng and David Bandurski — Former premier Hua Guofeng (华国锋), the party leader eventually outmaneured in the late 1970s by the more charismatic Deng Xiaoping (邓小平), passed away quietly last week. Hua was given scarcely a nod from international media, who were busy, understandably, covering the Games in Beijing.
The response from China’s media was understated too, with a few notable exceptions from more freewheeling commercial media.
In official party papers, Hua was inevitably given a small, namecard-sized treatment last Thursday in the front page space Chinese journalists refer to as the “paper’s rear-end” (报屁股) — that is, usually, the lower right-hand corner. The text was uniformly the official Xinhua News Agency release:
Comrade Hua Guofeng, a distinguished Chinese Communist Party member, a tested and faithful champion of communism, who previously held important posts in the party and government, passed away on August 20, 2008, at 12:50pm in Beijing, due to an illness that did not respond to treatment. He was 87 years old.
Coverage at the official People’s Daily was typical, devoting a small box with a photo of Hua and the Xinhua release.
[ABOVE: August 21 edition of People’s Daily with “rear-end” coverage of Hua Guofeng’s death.]
Not surprisingly, news about Chinese President Hu Jintao dominates the People’s Daily page, the most prominent story (with photos) about Hu’s visit with the Chinese Olympic team.
In contrast, the official website of People’s Daily carried more extensive coverage of Hua’s death, including a message board where users could leave their comments.
Over at Shanghai’s official Liberation Daily, the page was almost identical.
[ABOVE: August 21 edition of Liberation Daily.]
The boldest front page on Hua Guofeng’s death is hardly a surprise.
Guangdong’s Southern Metropolis Daily splashed the official Hua Guofeng news release and a more lively color photo across the left-hand half of its front page last Thursday, sharing at least equal attention with news of Jamaica’s Usain Bolt breaking the world record in the 200 meters.
[ABOVE: Front page of August 21 edition of Guangdong’s Southern Metropolis Daily.]
Some of the boldest coverage of Hua’s death last week came from Shenzhen’s Daily Sunshine, which gave the story a front page nod as well as a full inside spread.
Here is the newspaper’s front page, which is filled with splashier commercial fare (the dominating headine is again about Bolt):
[ABOVE: August 21 edition of Shenzhen’s Daily Sunshine.]
And below is the black-and-white inside spread on Hua Guofeng, which carries the headline: “Hua Guofeng Passes Away in Beijing Due to Untreatable Illness.”
The page offers much more historical information on the former premier, including a fact that Chinese media rarely mention — that Hua opposed and stymied the rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping.
Chinese readers turning to the online edition of Caijing magazine could find a bit more to whet their appetites.
Last Friday, Caijing posted Hu Guofeng’s recollection 22 years after the fact of his breaking up of the Gang of Four, previously published in Yanhuang Chunqiu (炎黄春秋).
[Posted by Joseph Cheng and David Bandurski, August 25, 2008, 2:55pm HK]