By the time it was pulled out from state media on Thursday as a fake, the story about President Xi Jinping taking an anonymous taxi ride in Beijing had created a stir.
It wasn’t clear whether China’s state media was admitting it had been for a ready ride or whether the government had decided against soaking in the publicity.
But, surprisingly, till Thursday evening the story was still, if partly, on display on an official government portal.
Till Thursday morning, state media, including the state-run Xinhua — which appeared to have got the news confirmed from transport authorities — and the nationalistic Global Times had eagerly carried it; probably an effort to burnish Xi’s people-friendly image.
The story was embellished with the driver’s photographs. The story of Xi’s purported taxi ride story was first published by a government-backed Hong Kong newspaper, Ta Kung Pao.
Later, Xinhua rescinded the story as “fake”; this after, initially, quoting Beijing transport authorities to add to the story’s authenticity and publishing it.
“Taxi, taxi, for China’s Xi Jinping” was the headline given in a government news portal till it was removed Thursday evening. “A man answering the phone at Guo’s employer, the Shengdali taxi company, said he would not talk about it and hung up,” Reuters reported.