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I'm late

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wǒ lái wǎn le | 我来晚了

Wen Jiabao consoling the child of a victim of the Tongchuan mine blast (Lan Hongguang / Xinhua)

Catchphrase of former Premier Wen Jiabao, first uttered on a trip to Tongchuan, Shaanxi in 2004, where a gas explosion in a coal mine killed 166 people. From then on, netizens took note of Wen's every apology for being late at the scenes of natural and man-made disasters: a southern snow storm in January 2008, the devastating Sichuan earthquake of May 8, 2008, and the site of the Wenzhou train crash stand out in the public memory. Netizens often felt that "Grandpa Wen" was feeding the people and the media a clever line, and that he lacked real concern for the plight of the Chinese people.

"I'm late" also recalls former Premier Zhao Ziyang's final appearance in public], when he spoke to student protesters in Tiananmen Square on May 19, 1989. "Students, we have come too late" he began, in a speech encouraging students to end their hunger strike. In an iconic photo of the event, Wen Jiabao stands behind Zhao Ziyang.

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