Sensitive Words: “Interview” with Xi’s First Wife
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On August 28, the WeChat official (i.e. public) account “Fangshishujian” (方式书简) posted what it claimed was an interview with Ke originally published by the Chinese-language UK Chinese Journal (英国侨报). The paper has issued a statement denying any connection to the interview and threatening legal action against Fangshishujian—a fruitless threat, since the article and the account of Fangshishujian itself have been deleted from WeChat.
Ke Xiaoming, who also goes by Ke Lingling, is the youngest daughter of former ambassador to Britain Ke Hua. Her marriage to Xi Jinping lasted only a few years, while he served under then Secretary-General of the Central Military Commission Geng Biao. She moved to Britain in the 1980s.
The “interview” portrays Ke as the “high-ranking director of a private hospital in London” and “a visiting professor at the University of London School of Oriental and African Medicine” (伦敦大学亚非医学院的客座教授). The School of Oriental and African Studies does not teach medicine, and there is no such School of Oriental and African Medicine. Mingjing News reports that a “person in Beijing familiar with the situation” has “categorically denied the veracity” of the interview, and further states that Ke never studied medicine and that she no longer lives in Britain.
Ke also contradicts herself in the “interview” with regards to her evaluation of Xi’s character:
At the time, could you imagine that Xi Jinping would become the leader of China?
Ke: I didn’t, there’s no way I could have imagined it. I’m really happy for him becoming the president of China, since when I left him he was still just an administrative-level cadre. He is someone who really has ideals. I always thought he had real potential, but at the time I couldn’t see what that potential was good for.
In your heart, what kind of person is Xi Jinping?
Ke: I still think he’s an honest person. This is something I always valued in him. Before I thought he was too stubborn. Perhaps because our time together was so short, I didn’t really understand him. Looking back now, a lot of the things he did were actually right, but I was too young and impulsive. He isn’t an idealist. He does things according to plan, step by step. I am perhaps more of an idealist. After all, women love men who understand romance. But Xi wasn’t. I often felt he was too inflexible. This has a lot to do with the way we grew up and our education. [Chinese]
On August 29, CDT Chinese found a number of keyword combinations related to the “interview” have been blocked from Weibo search results, including Xi + former wife (习＋前妻), Xi + predecessor (习＋前任), Xi + Ke Xiaoming (习＋柯小明), Xi + divorce (习＋离婚), Xi + second marriage (习＋二婚), and Ke Xiaoming + former wife (柯小明＋前妻). The first combination mentioned above was also blocked on April 22, 2014.
Xi married Peng Liyuan in 1987. They have a daughter, Xi Mingze.
The Xi administration has been cracking down on rumor-mongering, both real and imagined. Nearly 200 people have been detained in the past few weeks for “spreading rumors” about the Shanghai stock market crash and chemical explosions in Tianjin. A study released last month by Jason Q. Ng of the University of Toronto’s Citizan Lab found that censors will delete posts by WeChat official accounts containing “fairly harmless” lies and sensationalism, while posts containing political keywords are especially targeted for deletion.
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