Book critical of China’s Premier on sale in Hong Kong

Mainland Chinese police warn its dissident author he could be thrown in jail.

Hong Kong: A controversial book that criticises China`s Premier Wen Jiabao hit Hong Kong bookstores on Monday, after mainland Chinese police warned its dissident author he could be thrown in jail.

Yu Jie, the 36-year-old author of `Wen Jiabao: China`s Best Actor`, was interrogated in Beijing by state security agents in July and warned that publishing the book could see him sent to prison.

Bao Pu, head of Hong Kong publisher New Century Press, said: "There has been no pressure or interference whatsoever (in publishing the book)."

However, Bao wrote in his foreword for the book that the author was warned after authorities knew about their plan to have it published in Hong Kong.

"The police`s logic is that the leader is not an ordinary person."

"Criticising the leader is a very serious criminal case. It would be very likely for (Yu) to be punished severely like the way Liu Xiaobo was," Bao wrote, referring to the dissident who was jailed for 11 years for promoting a manifesto calling for China to become a democracy.

A spokesman for the book`s Hong Kong distributor, the Green Field Book Store, said it went on sale on Monday after the first 5,000 copies arrived.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 but retains a semi-autonomous status with civil liberties not enjoyed by people in mainland China.

Yu`s books have been banned on the mainland since 2004 but are widely available in Hong Kong.

The book on Wen is likely to cause shockwaves, as China`s Premier enjoys a generally good reputation both at home and abroad, where he is sometimes described as progressive.

The Premier is sometimes affectionately referred to as "Grandpa Wen" because of his down-to-earth interactions with the public.

Wen was often dispatched to disaster zones -- most recently for the deadly mudslides in northwest Gansu province -- hugging victims` families, speaking words of encouragement to rescuers, and even shedding public tears.

However, the author wrote that Wen was only playing the role of "the best mediator" between an authoritarian ruler and his citizens, providing an illusion that people are living a prosperous and happy life under a crumpling leadership.

"There is only one objective for all that Wen Jiabao has done since he took the rein, and it is to `act`. He knows that this old car -- the Chinese Communist Party -- is going to fall apart," according to excerpts.

"He himself is not a driver with the charisma and ability to stop the car or switch path... As a result, all he can do is to be like a puppet, acting as long as he can."

Yu`s book is also scathing of the way Wen dealt with opposition voices and criticism.

"Accepting criticisms and scolding from the public is the very first basic skill a ruler needs to have. Without such mental quality, one should not take part in this game."

Without a popular mandate, the Chinese government has to "force its people to recognise it by force and lies", he wrote.

He said in an interview in July that the 67-year-old Premier had actually worked to further restrict civil liberties and increase the powers of China`s feared secret police.

In June, Bao said he decided not to publish another controversial book -- `The Tiananmen Diary of Li Peng` -- initially citing copyright concerns.

The book suggested that the former Chinese Premier, known as the `Butcher of Beijing`, followed orders to clear Tiananmen Square in the bloody 1989 democracy rally that saw hundreds if not thousands of protesters die.

Bao said his decision not to publish the diary was sparked by moral rather than legal concerns, and cited interference from unidentified people.

Bureau Report

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