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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Chinese Premier Visits drug Clinic

Chinese Leader demonstrates humanity or political savvy?

Chinese Premier Wen touring flood devastated areas. Pic People's DailyIn what must be a first for a serving Politburo member and senior government leader China's premier Wen Jaibao has visited a drug clinic in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, central China.

The clinic is one of the largest drug rehabilitation centers in the country and has 1,360 beds mainly filled with young people. All are considered criminals under Chinese law.

During the visit the Chinese Premier apparently reduced many to tears as he gave them some advice such as to remember China's historical drug problem, that they consider their parents and that they ponder their future and try to envisage a bright drug free one.

Proving however that paternalism dies hard in the CCP Wen told the patients:

"Please keep in mind my words and the day June 10, when the premier said them to you,"

Wen has surprised many since taking office in early 2003 by demonstrating a humanitarian streak uncommon in China's leaders. This visit follows similar episodes such as when he became the first Politburo member to visit an AIDS clinic , visited flood devasteated rural areas trudging in mud and rain, went into the fields of Rural China and emphasised with poor farmers and when he personally involved himself in the plight of "migrant workers", that class of Chinese that move from their home towns in search of employment and who are often cruelly exploited by employers.

This populist approach has won Wen many admirers internationally but no doubt many detractors within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the hardliners among whom may see such acts as signs of weakness.

Whether Wen is really demonstrating by this "humane" approach a fundamental change in the new generation of Chinese leaders or whether it is just evidence of a more modern party adopting a little western political nous and savvy is yet to be seen. Suffice to say that it can do no harm.