‘Not fit to lead’: letter attacking Xi Jinping sparks panic in Beijing

An anonymous, online call for the president to quit has sparked a furious manhunt for its author, betraying paranoia at the top of the Communist party

The Guardian
Date: 31 March 2016
By: Stuart Leavenworth in Beijing

It wasn’t a very long letter – the equivalent of about 920 words in English and it appeared only

Xi Jinping at the 12th National People’s Congress. An anonymous letter calling for his resignation has caused authorities to move against dissidents. Photograph: Wu Hong/EPA
Xi Jinping at the 12th National People’s Congress. An anonymous letter calling for his resignation has caused authorities to move against dissidents. Photograph: Wu Hong/EPA

briefly on a Chinese website.

But its content was potentially incendiary. It called for president Xi Jinping to resign.

Many China watchers initially dismissed it as a prank, as opposed to a sign of real dissension within the ruling Communist party.

But only a few weeks later, the mysterious letter has taken on a life of its own – largely because of the government’s outsized reaction to it.

State security agents have detained more than two dozen people thought linked to the letter’s distribution. They scrubbed the Chinese internet of all search terms related to it. They have also detained and harassed family members of exiled Chinese journalist who have commented on the letter, and even tried to get one of those commentaries retracted by a German newspaper.

Party leaders apparently see the letter as a real threat, some China experts have concluded, and so they have launched a manhunt to determine how it became an internet sensation.

“In the beginning this letter didn’t seem like much,” said Bill Bishop, author of the Sinocism newsletter, which tracks Chinese politics.

“But now, given the reaction, it has become much more important. They are going after multiple people, in China and now outside of China.”     [FULL  STORY]

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