Media potshot on U.S. ambassador backfires

The Beijing Daily, the official mouthpiece of Beijing’s top city-level Party leaders, shamed itself earlier this month in the eyes of many Chinese on social media when it led a campaign of propaganda against the United States, criticizing its involvement in the Chen Guangcheng case. The reaction against the paper was so strong that “Beijing Daily” was within hours defined as a sensitive search keyword on Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular microblog platforms.

Today, just as “Beijing Daily” is again searchable on Sina Weibo, the newspaper has stepped right back into the spotlight of mockery by dragging its favorite whipping boy, U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, into one of China’s most sensitive ongoing debates — the intransigent issue of the disclosure of the personal finances of Party and government leaders.

Responding yesterday to a Weibo post suggesting Gary Locke is among America’s super-rich and that his common-man antics in Beijing are just a “show,” Beijing Daily wrote on its official Sina Weibo account:

Won’t Gary Locke please disclose his personal assets.
请骆家辉公布财产


[ABOVE: In a post today, the official Sina Weibo account of the official Beijing Daily calls on U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke to disclose his personal assets.]

Oops.

Chinese users pounced on this post this morning, pointing out with no small measure of schadenfreude that U.S. politicians all had to disclose their personal assets, and that these figures were publicly available on the internet for the convenience of all citizens.

Liu Yadong (刘亚东), the editor-in-chief of Science and Technology Daily newspaper, wrote on Sina Weibo:

No matter whether its praise or criticism your dishing out, it must be based on a deep understanding of the other side. Seen from a many sides, Beijing Daily‘s demand that Gary Locke disclose his personal finances is a basic error. It shows a basic lack of understanding of American society: how can that country’s top politicians possibly keep their personal assets secret! To openly make such a childish demand perhaps also reveals the closed-up nature of this newspaper, its lack of international perspective. This is a lesson!

无论表扬还是批评,都必须建立在对受者深入了解的基础上。从多个角度看,北京日报要求骆家辉公布个人财产都是一个低级错误,表明其缺乏关于美国社会的基本常识:那个国家民选的高级公职人员哪能保守财产秘密!公诸如此幼稚的诉求或许还反映出该报的封闭性,没有国际视野。是为训!

Chinese columnist Zhao Chu (赵楚) responded less kindly:

Beijing Daily is a joke. For them to make a joke like this just shows they’re a bunch of stupid pigs at the top.

《北京日报》是个笑话,他们能闹出这样的笑话,可见都是多蠢的猪在局中。

The Beijing Daily Weibo post was removed at 9:57am today, as CMP was watching. The newspaper apparently deleted the original Weibo post and decided the best way to not disclose its own silliness was to re-post the original post here, this time with a simple “re-post” (转发微博) rather than a comment about Gary Locke.

Unfortunately for Beijing Daily, traces are not so easily wiped away in this age when ogling eyes have the means of sharing their own observations. The comments are already stacking up underneath the second post:

His assets were disclosed back in 2010. Why doesn’t he teach Chinese official how to disclose [their assets]?
半拉北京人:人家在2010年就公布了你怎么不教中国官员公布呀 //@北京日报: 转发微博 (10秒前)

Beijing Daily, are you really dumb, or just playing dumb? You think that just by having this title “Beijing” to back you up you can lead public opinion astray?
辣笔小飞: @北京日报 ,你是真傻还是装傻?以为顶了个“北京”的头衔就可以混淆视听了?//@北京日报: 转发微博 (20秒前)

Of course Gary Locke’s personal assets have been disclosed. And what about the assets of those imperial officials [of ours]?
无梦的八戒: 骆家辉的财产肯定是公布了的,天朝官员公布了没?//@北京日报: 转发微博 (20秒前)

“Oh, editors and comrades of Beijing Daily, how are you? How tough things are for you. It’s just that the residence of the Ambassador and the cars he rides in are about the image of America. No matter how we try to refine the idea of whether or not Gary Locke is corrupt, there’s the looming issue of our leaders living in Zhongnanhai. And how much more resplendent are those official residences? Why don’t you have a look.
天恩0120: 北京日报的编辑同志们,你们好,你们辛苦了。只是大使官邸和座驾代表的是美国政府形象,我们怎么琢磨也和骆家辉是否腐败搭不上边,我们的领导人还住中南海呢,那造价比大使官邸又高出多少?请明察//@北京日报: 转发微博 (30秒前)

“What about that post asking Locke to disclose his assets? How was that deleted? How humiliating for the Party!
老男人的小日子: 那条要去骆家辉公布财产的微薄呢 怎么删了 真给党丢脸啊 //@北京日报: 转发微博 (40秒前)

Sina Weibo posts on this story on the personal account of CMP researcher David Bandurski were removed by 10:48am today, May 15, 2012. They can be viewed below:

POST 1
POST 2
POST 3

They also resulted in this delightful bit of correspondence from the platform informing the user that POST 1 has been “secreted” because, “This weibo is not convenient to expose to the outside.”

UPDATE: By 11am today, May 15, 2012, even the simple re-post by Beijing Daily meant to cloak its original comment about U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke had been removed from its official Weibo account, yielding this message from Sina Weibo.

The problem, presumably, was that the re-post itself was getting bombarded with comments from Sina Weibo users referencing the original post.

UPDATE: This final Sina Weibo post by David Bandurski on the Beijing Daily post was deleted sometime before 2:45pm, May 15, 2012.

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