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Date Posted: 15:00 04/01/2005

Wen the Saint goes marching in

China's Premier feels the people's pain.

CHINA'S INTREPID Premier, Wen Jiabao, has hit the headlines once more with yet another show of compassion. The Communist Party's Man of the People visited the Chenjiashan Coalmine in Tongchuan, Shaanxi Province over the New Year break to console the relatives of the 166 miners killed in a massive methane explosion on November 28. In a grand gesture worthy of the touchy-feely politics of the west, the Premier broke down in tears when talking to the son of one of the victims.

This isn't the first time Premier Wen has been extending his warm hand of friendship to the People. Over the Spring Festival of 2003, Wen spent time down one of the coalmines in the stricken city of Fuxin in Liaoning Province, one of the primary targets of the government's 'Rejuvenate the Northeast' campaign and suffering from massive unemployment, environmental degradation and even large-scale subsidence as a result of years of overmining.

He was also intervening on behalf of Three Gorges residents during a visit to the region in 2003, publicly berating officials after a local woman told him how her husband had not been paid for months. During the Great Plague of that year, he was shaking hands with SARS victims and with the doctors trying to head off the crisis. At the height of the bird flu scare, he was spotted interacting with villagers in areas struck by bird flu.

Wen was the Great White Hope for reformers hoping to see a more humane approach to governance by the Chinese Communist Party. Many observers pointed to his central role as right-hand man to Zhao Ziyang during the Tian'anmen protests in 1989. However, shaking hands and shedding tears may not be enough to fulfil those hopes.

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