An anonymous blogger in China who ignited the country's curiosity with intimate details of incoming Chinese President Xi Jingping‘s comings and goings has revealed himself to be a college dropout unaffiliated with the communist party. [Update: Zhang Hongming announced with bitterness in the Fan's group would stop update on late afternoon of February 11, 2013.]
Bombarded with interview requests from the media and faced with mounting speculation over his real identity, Zhang Hongming, a migrant worker from China's southwestern Sichuan province, revealed in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press that he is the mastermind behind the “Xuesifensituan” [zh] (Learning from Xi Fan Club) page on the popular Chinese micro-blogging website Sina Weibo.
Zhang claimed in the February 9 interview to be a genuine fan of Xi, and said his intention is to grant the public more access to the state leader. He went on to describe [zh] the interview with the Associated Press in a February 10 post on his Weibo page. A photo of himself was attached to the microblog:
Many remain skeptical of Zhang, believing that he works for the Propaganda Department. The Weibo page is home to nothing but messages fawning over the country's communist leadership, such as a post published to the fan club page on Chinese New Year's Eve on February 9 that features an image [zh] of seven party members performing a New Year's greeting. The microblog greets the Chinese people on behalf of the leaders:
[New Year greeting to all Chinese people] We are making efforts… As the head of this fan club, I wish all Xi's fans Happy New Year. I will stop tweeting for some days.
Such flattering publications have annoyed some web users. Zhang Xiaolei [zh] commented on Weibo that the fan club is serving the Propaganda Department:
It seems that the propaganda department staff will take Spring Festival break soon.
As of Feb 11, the number of Zhang's followers on Weibo has swelled to 809,737. Doubts are likely to linger over how he manages to collect such close-up pictures of Xi despite his earlier claim that the pictures of Xi he has featured came from online sources or were provided by Xi's local fans. It's a question that the Associated Press interview failed to address, as Maodou Xiansheng [zh] pointed out on Weibo:
May I ask the blogger, how are you able to know so much about the General Secretary's itinerary, his meetings with major provincial leaders and get hold of so many old photos, as well as those photos taken on the scene of General Secretary Xi's visits??????