China Pulls T-Shirts Featuring Premier's Quotes
A Chinese fashion retailer has been forced to pull a line of T-shirts featuring quotes by Premier Wen Jiabao because they violated rules on depicting government leaders, state media said Thursday.
The shirts were marketed by the designer Vancl and emblazoned with what the official Xinhua news agency called "signature" down-to-earth phrases of Wen's.
These include slogans that loosely translate as "Reflect on your faults", and "Keep both feet on the ground".
Vancl is suspected of violating a law against using the "the names of state organs or their functionaries" for advertising purposes, an unnamed spokesman with Beijing's commerce agency was quoted saying.
The spokesman added authorities planned to take action against Vancl, which is known for its edgy designs.
While kitschy images of Communist founder Mao Zedong are ubiquitous in China, such depictions of current leaders are effectively banned, apparently due to official fears they could cast an embarrassing light on the image-obsessed Communist Party and its top leaders.
Wen is affectionately known in China as "Grandpa Wen" for his image as a humble man of the people who rushes to disaster scenes to comfort victims, such as a massive 2008 earthquake in the southwest that killed tens of thousands.
Some of the phrases on the shirts were uttered by Wen during an annual nationally televised press conference in March, Xinhua said.
The conference was Wen's last -- a new premier takes over by next year in a regular once-a-decade leadership change -- and he stayed true to his image with self-deprecating comments such as mentioning "deficiencies" in his work.
Wen, 69, has been premier since 2003.
The T-shirt line was called "Look Up At The Starry Sky," the title of a poem written by Wen that encourages youths to pursue their dreams.
Xinhua said Vancl's website featured pictures of Wen waving to journalists and taking questions at the March press conference but that the images were taken down within hours.
China's political climate has turned particularly sensitive following the ouster of charismatic senior leader Bo Xilai, former head of the southwestern municipality of Chongqing.
Bo had been widely expected to ascend to the Communist Party committee that runs China in the leadership change later this year, but was ousted in a scandal that has shaken Chinese politics.
During the March press conference, Wen scolded the Chongqing leadership in comments that publicly launched Bo's downfall.