The year’s most important political scandal, one which makes Bo Xilai look like the smallest of small potatoes, continues to rumble on. Hong Kong’s Apple Daily is claiming that Xi Jinping’s Beijing taxi ride did take place, after all.
Taxigate began when the Takungpao, a Beijing-backed paper known for shoddy reporting, printed an article claiming that Xi Jinping rode in a Beijing taxi in early March and chatted with the driver about, among other things, air pollution, and how the government is totally doing its best to reduce it.
The SCMP cast doubt on the veracity of the story almost immediately, and later the same day Xinhua flat out denied that the taxi ride ever took place.
Xinhua’s denial seemed to be the end of #taxigate, until, that is, the Apple Daily stepped into the fray. The May 26 edition of the paper quoted Gao Yu, a Beijing-based journalist, as saying the taxi story was true. Gao said a “highly reliable source” had told him that Xi had instructed senior aides to keep news of his taxi ride out of the media (great job guys).
The Asahi Shimbun has more:
“I just took the taxi out of a momentary whim, so don’t have it reported,” Xi reportedly told Li Zhanshu, director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee. Li is responsible for arranging state affairs for Xi, who doubles as the party’s general secretary.
But a deputy bureau chief in the International Communication Office of the party’s Central Committee thought the story would serve as a perfect vehicle for portraying Xi as a public-friendly figure, and privately leaked the news to Takungpao’s reporters stationed in Beijing.
After the story appeared, Xi summoned Li and grilled him about how and why his taxi ride was reported in the news despite his instruction to the contrary.
Li, confounded, called on the state-run Xinhua News Agency to deny the Takungpao story.
Xi reportedly told Li he’d “added a folly onto a folly”.
[Image credit: James Griffiths]