As China’s annual “Two Meetings” of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference kicked off in Beijing on Saturday, the focus was on greater social fairness. This was a theme Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝) emphasized ahead of the meetings last month when he compared economic development to a cake and said it was important to make sure that cake was divided fairly.
But during the first two days of the “Two Meetings” the theme of fairness resonated through an online story about China’s wealthiest delegate that raised the hackles of many web users — once again underlining the problem of privilege and favoritism.
Chinese microblogs buzzed with allegations over the weekend that Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference delegate and billionaire Liu Yonghao (刘永好), vice chairman of Minsheng Bank and chairman of the New Hope Group, gave red envelopes of cash late last week to news reporters covering the “two meetings.”
According to a report in Yunnan Information Times, red envelopes given to reporters, allegedly by Liu Yonghao, contained amounts of 100-200 yuan. Zhao Jianfei (赵剑飞), a reporter for Hu Shuli’s Caixin Media, said in a microblog post that a fellow reporter took part in the event last week at which envelopes were handed out by organizers.
Representatives from the New Hope Group have responded, say Chinese media, by saying that it reimbursed “transportation fees” (交通费) for reporters attending a press conference a few days ago, but said these were not red envelopes and had nothing to do with the NPC or CPPCC.
A number of Chinese media reports on Sunday said allegations against Liu Yonghao have drawn anger from Chinese Internet users, many suspecting Liu, who was designated by Forbes magazine last year as China’s richest man, of attempting to draw favorable news coverage by handing out cash.
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FRONTPAGE PHOTO: Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, by Buck82 available at Flickr.com under Creative Commons license.