Just days before China’s National People’s Congress session, the names of President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and a few other former top officials briefly appeared on a scroll in a popular historical TV drama set in ancient China — and not in a positive light.
Such speculation has swirled around the popular television series “The Qin Empire 3,” about the rise of imperial China’s first dynasty more than two millennia ago. A recently aired episode about the bitter stalemate between the rival kingdoms of Qin and Zhao shows a Qin spy unrolling a bamboo scroll listing Zhao officials thought to be susceptible to bribery.
Messrs. Hu and Wen were president and premier respectively from 2003 to 2013. Li Changchun and Mr. Jia were members of the Communist Party’s top decision-making body for a decade until late 2012. Li Keqiang is the current premier, China’s No. 2 leader.
The scene aired in late February, according to one viewer who saw it on television and another who watched it on a video-streaming app. And it briefly caused a fleeting stir on social media. Discussions of the scene among some eagle-eyed viewers disappeared from Chinese social media.
The offending shot has been removed from online versions posted on commercial platforms in China, though it’s still available on some outside.
State broadcaster China Central Television, which aired the drama, didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did China’s television regulator and Youku, a streaming site that carried the drama. Another streaming site that ran the episode, iQiyi, declined to comment. The series director didn’t respond to requests for comment, and an administrative staffer reached at the production company, Xi’an Qujiang Qin Empire Cultural Propagation Co., said he wasn’t aware of the matter.
The sensitivity of the stunt, no matter how fleeting the shot, is obvious to those that noticed.
“Looks like The Qin Empire’s going to banned from broadcast,” read the title of a discussion thread on a Chinese internet forum, which has since been censored by forum administrators.
Mr. Xi has run a withering crackdown on corruption in his four years as China’s top leader. Being identified as an official from Zhao is also politically charged since the phrase “members of the Zhao family” is used today among politically minded Chinese as a euphemism for the wealthy and powerful.
The episode ran just days before China kicked off its annual legislative session on Sunday, one of the most public political events of the year. This year’s session comes. … (read more)
Source: Wall Street Journal
Chun Han Wong, with contributions from Kersten Zhang and Lilian Lin