Hu's hometown visit ahead of retirement evokes mixed response



Beijing: Ahead of his retirement in March next year, Chinese President Hu Jintao has paid an unannounced visit to his hometown Taizhou in Anhui province for the first time in three decades, evoking mixed reaction from residents there.

The development was conspicuously not covered by the state media, while Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that the town's residents were surprised by Hu's visit yesterday.

Pictures of Hu waving from a mini bus were widely circulated on the microblog media.

"Oh my God! Old Hu is really coming home!" one Tencent user wrote, according to the Post. The internet user posted a photograph of Hu waving from a minibus window and another showing a crowd outside a guest house with a banner that read: "Welcome President Hu."

"A woman who waited in the rain for hours to see Hu told me she 'felt so happy and excited' when she finally saw Big Brother Tao," wrote another microblogger.

"I think all her words were from the bottom of her heart, as her eyes were swimming with tears when she spoke," the blog post said.

The traffic snarls caused by his visit also irritated some people.

"Why do we need to send up to eight minibuses to accompany Hu?" one internet user said.

Hu's visit also sparked speculation that the 71-year-old leader may be looking to settle there after his retirement in March next year.

Reports say most of the retired Chinese leaders have led comfortable but obscure lives except for Hu's successor Jiang Zemin, who continued to be a kingmaker a decade after his retirement.

Hu has already stepped down as General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party and as head of the military handing the charge over to Vice President Xi Jinping in a smooth succession process last month.

He would formally retire as President, when Xi takes over the post on March 5, when the legislature, National People's Congress (NPC), begins its annual session.

Besides Hu, Premier Wen Jiabao and the entire leadership of Hu's era retires after a decade in power as per rules guiding the Chinese Communist Party system.

The low-key trip to Taizhou was only Hu's second public appearance since he stepped down from the Party post last month.

Earlier this month, he visited Zunyi, Guizhou province, a "red" tourist destination where Mao Zedong was made party leader.

An itinerary posted on the internet yesterday indicated that Hu visited his alma mater, Taizhou Secondary School, and planted a gingko tree in the schoolyard, the Post said.

PTI