China's new first lady Peng Liyuan has wowed international media with her understated charm and style, but a photograph showing her singing to the troops in the wake of the 1989 military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement recently made the rounds on the Internet, only to be removed by censors. Cai Yongmei, editor of the Hong Kong-based Kaifang Magazine, gives her reaction to the image:
"Kaifang Magazine once printed a photograph of Peng Liyuan visiting the martial law troops, but she was wearing a white military uniform, not a green uniform [as in the photograph]. This photograph that is all over the Internet looks like one of several that was published by a pro-China media organization in 1989, after June 4."
"So many years have passed, and those exiled as political criminals after June 4 still haven't been allowed to return to their own country. The Chinese authorities know that firing on civilians in a massacre wasn't exactly a glorious achievement. According to the thinking of the Chinese Communist Party, this is the politically correct thing for the first lady to have done. It shouldn't be a black mark against her. But in their heart of hearts they know it's nothing to be proud of. That's why they have tried to distance themselves from it. For example, [former premier] Li Peng said that the order to fire wasn't given by him. [Former president] Yang Shangkun tried to distance himself from June 4 before he died. This shows that they are conflicted about it. Of course [president] Xi Jinping doesn't want that photo of Peng Liyuan posted on the Internet."
"It doesn't matter how he tries to tweak the image of those closest to him, though. It doesn't matter how much people like to hear Peng Liyuan sing. None of this can change the fact that Xi is exactly like his predecessors, in that his power doesn't come from a popular mandate. The Chinese media is using the image of Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan as propaganda, in the same way that they used those of Olympic gold medal winners. The aim is to prettify and whitewash the dictatorial regime that is the Communist Party."
Reported by Lin Ping for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.