The legend of the Taxi Ride

20 Apr

Xi Jinping was the centre of a story recently in the Hong Kong newspaper, Ta Kung Pao, which told the interesting tale of how the new Chinese President walked among the citizens, embracing China’s social communism, as an equal and embodiment of China’s egalitarianism. Xi JInping was said to have travelled by Taxi on March 1st, instead of the usual private cars provided for such Chinese officials, in response to the complaints of air pollution, as if to remove himself for the image of the 1984-esc face establishment and be seen as one of the people, Xi Jinping stating “everyone is equal” “and I’m from the grassroots too”.

However it emerged, after the sensation story was republished by other media outlets and broke all over the Chinese internet and weibo on the 18th of April, that the story was apparently fabricated and was a hoax by the Hong Kong newspaper. This came after many online criticisms of the accounts given by the newspaper, such as a confirmation of the story from the ministry of transport and an apparent letter received by the Taxi driver, in which Xi Jinping’s handwriting was said not to have matched. Following this, internet presence of the story began to disappear and Ta Kung Pao apologised for the story, stating “it’s inappropriate for us to make such mistakes at work and allow such a significant piece of fake news to appear”.

Though, this interesting story takes another unbelievable turn, it is reported that this was no mere hoax and was an attempt by the Chinese government to deceive readers of the Hong Kong newspaper. On the 18th, Ta Kung Pao’s website released a web page and photo gallery with images of the taxi driver. This would have been an extremely elaborate hoax and a dangerous one when China’s media censorship is infamous. Furthermore the story was written by Wang Wen Tao, the Beijing Bureau Chief, which would suggest credibility to the story. Additionally, as the story had been confirmed by the ministry of transport it would appear that the government encouraged the story and lied about the falsified taxi journey; Beijing transport authorities told the Xinhua news wire “the relevant details were real.”

If this story is an attempt by the new Chinese leadership to deceive the Chinese people, cynics of the regime will have much ammunition in questioning the extent to which the new government will institute any reform in liberalisation and in their declaration to increase transparency within the government, as Xi Jinping claims to battle corruption and abuse within the Chinese bureaucracy. This story is an important part in shaping the all-important image of the new regime, and will deal a great blow to Xi JInping who tries to win favour in a difficult time in China, and will give no hope to those who seek greater freedom of speech and lack of censorship as the blocking of weibo (Chinese micro-blogging site) is an indicator of the regime’s insistence for control over the internet and the flow of information.




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