By David Bandurski — Zhang Zhiguo (张志国), the party secretary of Xifeng County in the Liaoning city of Tieling, became the focus of a sustained national media attack in January this year after news emerged that he had sent police to Beijing to arrest journalist Zhu Wenna (朱文娜) for an investigative report on local county land deals.
The affair cooled down after February 5, when Zhang was removed as Xifeng’s party secretary by top leaders in Tieling. [SEE “China’s feudal county cadres: ‘defamed’ and dangerous,” CMP, December 2008].
But now, once again, national newspapers are up in arms about Zhang Zhiguo, who seems to have returned to good standing — and has perhaps even been promoted.
[ABOVE: Online coverage of the latest Zhang Zhiguo controversy shows the former county secretary as he appeared on local Tieling television in January 2008.]
Reporting Zhang Zhiguo’s apparent return to politics on Monday, China Youth Daily said the case “looked like an act of revenge against public opinion.” The report began:
Zhang Zhiguo, former party secretary of Xifeng County in Liaoning’s Tieling City, has been reinstated, his position as vice president of the Joint Project Management Office of Tieling City [in charge of light rail projects]. On November 20, Tieling TV, [the official local party TV station], reported Zhang Zhiguo’s new position in its nightly “Tieling News” program.
As soon as the news was out, web users expressed their consternation at major web portals . . .
Seeking to control damage from the story, authorities in Liaoning issued a press release through the official Xinhua News Agency saying that “up to now, the standing committee of the CCP in Tieling has not met on the question of whether new work will be arranged for Zhang Zhiguo, and has made no decision whatsoever about whether new arrangements will be made [for Zhang].”
The Zhang Zhiguo controversy broke in January 2008 after the leader was apparently angered by a Faren Magazine report published on January 2, 2008, about local Liaoning businesswoman Zhao Junping (赵俊萍), who was detained for seven months in Xifeng County, Liaoning, before being tried and found guilty on charges of defamation and tax evasion in a case that appeared to be a vendetta by Secretary Zhang involving a contested land seizure.
The day after the story broke, the local prosecutor’s office in Xifeng County ordered Zhao Junhua (赵俊华), the older sister of local Xifeng businesswoman Zhao Junping, to appear for questioning. Zhao Junhua told China Youth Daily last January that she was pressured with accusations that she had paid the Faren Magazine reporter for the negative story. It was not possible, reasoned her interrogators, that a reporter would travel from Beijing to Liaoning for a story unless she had been offered payment.
The next day, Xifeng County’s propaganda chief, Li Fulu (李福路), and the head of the county’s politics and law committee (政法委), Zhou Jingyu (周静宇), paid a visit to the offices of Faren Magazine in Beijing to speak with the editor in chief. That afternoon, a group of Xifeng police officers entered the magazine’s offices with an order for summons and detention. They said a “defamation” case had already been opened against the reporter Zhu Wenna and demanded to speak with her about it.
[Posted by David Bandurski, November 26, 2008, 9:19am HK]