CHINA> Regional
Upstart mayor accused of plagiarism
By  Wang Huazhong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-27 08:54

The youngest mayor in China, sworn in last Sunday, is experiencing a rollercoaster-like emotional rush as public opinion of him remains divided only days after he took office.

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At the age of 29, being young and successful has not been easy for Zhou Senfeng, the mayor of a county-level city of Yicheng in central China's Hubei province. Zhou said it is tiring to find peace away from public scrutiny.

"Job pressure is no match to the stress I feel from the society," Zhou was quoted as saying by the Beijing News. "I wish media could focus less on me but give me some time to work and think - in a way like protecting development of youth."

Zhou, formerly acting mayor of Yicheng who graduated with a master's degree from China's Tsinghua University in Beijing, was elected unanimously as mayor last Sunday in a "secret" ballot of the city's people's congress.

Zhou's whirlwind promotion at a young age has triggered doubts and an exhaustive online search into his family and academic backgrounds, the transparency of the election process and even his political views.

According to, a Netizen wrote an online article two days after he took office that claims more than half of the content in a published thesis on Commercial Research written by Zhou in 2004 before his graduation, matches another thesis printed in 2002.

The university is reportedly taking the accusations seriously and investigating the plagiarism allegation.

Also in response to rumors that Zhou's wife is a vice-director of another city's people's congress in Hubei province, China News Service reported on June 23 that she is in fact the head of a subdivision of the congress. Backgrounds of the couple and the occupations of their respective parents were also detailed.

Some displeased Netizens pasted pictures of Zhou "posing apparently" like a corrupted bureaucratic. In the photos, a man is standing behind Zhou while holding an umbrella for him on a rainy day during a survey visit to a township earlier this month.

Another picture featuring a pack of luxurious cigarettes, possibly worth 120 yuan ($17) and placed on a conference table near his hand also drew public criticism.

Li Chengyan, head of Peking University's Clean Government Research Center, told China Daily on Friday: "Putting the alleged scandals aside, he should be regarded as a role model of grassroots politicians for young graduates today, especially as the global recession dampened outlook of employment rate."