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Politics & Law

Picture of first lady Peng Liyuan singing to Tiananmen troops erased by China censors

A computer shows a website displaying the photo of Peng Liyuan singing to martial law troops in Tiananmen Square. Photo: AP

A computer shows a website displaying the photo of Peng Liyuan singing to martial law troops in Tiananmen Square. Photo: AP

A photo of new first lady Peng Liyuan in her younger days, singing to martial law troops after the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, flickered across cyberspace this week.

It was swiftly scrubbed from China’s internet before it could generate discussion online.

But the image – seen and shared by outside observers – revived a memory the leadership prefers to suppress and shows one of the challenges in presenting Peng on the world stage as the country’s softer side.

The leadership wants Peng to show the human side of President Xi Jinping, while not exposing too many perks of the elite. And it must balance popular support for the first couple with an acute wariness of personality cults that could skew the consensus rule among top party leaders.

The photo shows Peng wearing a green military uniform, her windswept hair tied back in a ponytail, as she sings to helmeted and rifle-bearing troops seated in rows in Tiananmen Square.

It contrasts with her appearances this week in trendy suits and coiffed hair while touring Russia and Africa with Xi.

Kelley Currie, a human rights expert for the pro-democracy Project 2049 Institute in Arlington, Virginia, said: “I think that we have a lot of people hoping that because Xi Jinping walks around without a tie on and his wife is a singer who travels with him on trips that maybe we’re dealing with a new kind of leader, but I think these images remind people that this is the same party.

“It’s using new tools and new techniques, for the same purposes – to preserve its own power.”

Peng, 50, a major general in the People’s Liberation Army best known for soaring renditions of patriotic odes to the military and the party, kept a low profile as her husband prepared to take over as party chief. Her re-emergence has been accompanied by a blaze of publicity in state-run media hailing her beauty and charm, in a bid to harness her popularity to build support for Xi at home and abroad.

“The photo probably has a negative impact more so internationally than domestically,” said Joseph Cheng, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong.

He said more scrutiny of Peng is likely and such photos could raise questions about Xi’s interest in reforms.

He added: “It has been several months now that Xi Jinping has assumed the top leadership role and we have found no indicator that he is interested in this stage to push serious political reform.”

The image is a snapshot of the back cover of a 1989 issue of a publicly available military magazine PLA Pictorial, according to Sun Li, a reporter.

He said he took a photo of it on his cell phone several years ago when it was inadvertently posted on his microblog.

Sun said he quickly deleted it and had no idea how it resurfaced on the internet years later.

Warren Sun, a military historian at Monash University in Australia, had little doubt about the authenticity of the photo. He cited a 1992 academic report as saying that after the crackdown, Peng performed a song titled The Most Beloved People in a salute to the martial law troops.

In an indication of Peng’s appeal on the mainland, a man whose 19-year-old son was killed in the Tiananmen crackdown said he bears no grudges.

“If I had known about this back then, I would have been very disgusted by it. But now, looking at it objectively, it’s all in the past,” said Wang Fandi, whose son Wang Nan died from a bullet wound to his head.

“She was in the establishment. If the military wanted her to perform, she had to go.”

Source: SCMP – “First lady Peng Liyuan and the photo that’s best forgotten”

About chankaiyee2

Author of the book "Tiananmen's Tremendous Achievements" about how with the help of Tiananmen Protests, talented scholars with moral integrity seized power in the Party and state and brought prosperity to China. The second edition of the book will be published within a few days to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Protests All the parts in the first edition remain in the second edition with a few changes due to information available later and better understanding. There are also some changes for improvements of style. The new parts are Chapters 12-19 on events in China after the first edition was published: The fierce power struggle for succession between reformists and conservatives; Xi Jinping winning all elders’ support during his mysterious disappearance for 2 weeks in early September, 2012; and Xi Jinping Cyclone. Chan Kai Yee's new book: SPACE ERA STRATEGY: The Way China Beats The US An eye-opening book that tells the truth how the US is losing to China. The US is losing as it adopts the outdated strategy of Air-Sea Battle while China adopts the space era strategy to pursue integrated space and air capabilities: It is losing due to its diplomacy that has given rise to Russian-Chinese alliance. US outdated strategy has enabled China to catch up and surpass the US in key weapons: Hypersonic weapons (HGV) that Pentagon regards as the weapon that will dominate the world in the future. Aerospaceplane in China’s development of space-air bomber that can engage enemy anywhere in the world within an hour and destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group within minutes. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ASAT weapons, stealth aircrafts, drones, AEW&C, etc. The book gives detailed descriptions of China’s weapon development based on information mainly from Chinese sources that the author monitors closely. U.S. Must Not Be Beaten by China! China is not a democracy. Its political system cannot prevent the emergence of a despotic leader or stop such a leader when he begins to bring disasters to people. A few decades ago, Mao Zedong, the worst tyrant in world history did emerge and bring disasters to Chinese people. He wanted to fight a nuclear war to replace capitalism with communism but could not bring nuclear holocaust to world people as China was too weak and poor at that time. If a despot like Mao Zedong emerges when China has surpassed the US in military strength, world people will suffer the misery experienced by Chinese people in Mao era. China surpassing the US in GDP is not something to worry about as China has the heavy burden to satisfy its huge population, but China surpassing the US in military strength will be world people’s greatest concern if China remains an autocracy. US people are of much better quality than Chinese people. What they lack is a wise leader to adopt the correct strategy and diplomacy and the creative ways to use its resources in developing its military capabilities. I hope that with the emergence of a great leader, the US can put an end to its decline and remain number one in the world. China, US, space era strategy, air-sea battle, space-air bomber, arms race, weapon development, chan kai yee

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