Brum Mail turns Chinese in bid for Rover answers

By Sarah Lagan

The Birmingham Evening Mail has taken its demand for answers about
the future of the Rover factory at Longbridge to the Chinese embassy in
London after its questions were faced with a “stony silence” by the
company’s new Chinese owners.

And as part of its “No More Chinese Whispers” campaign, the Mail
last week became the first English-language newspaper to print a front
page headline in Mandarin – the language spoken by Rover bosses – after
it had been consistently ignored.

Longbridge employees have told
the Mail they hear conflicting rumours that either thousands of jobs
could be created by the company Nanjing Automobile, or that there may
be just a few hundred “lifting and shifting” jobs to move production
lines east.

As part of its campaign, the paper has been printing
the same 12 questions about the future of the Longbridge site every day
since 27 August, and putting them to the company both in English and
Mandarin – but has had no response. The questions include how much the
company is investing, how many jobs could be created and how many
models are planned.

Mail reporter Catherine Lillington, who
covers Longbridge for the paper, delivered the Mail’s 12 questions to
the embassy in person this week, although no one would officially put
their name to having received them.Editor Steve Dyson said: “The
embassy has got it now and we will continue to put forward our
questions every day. We aren’t insisting on keeping the factory open,
we just need Nanjing to tell us what its plans are. It’s confusing huge
chunks of employees who don’t know whether to go and retrain and we
have to tell them what is happening as soon as possible.

should be a conduit for change. If there’s a chance to save it, let us
hear it. If not, then tell us and we can close the door on the whole
thing.” Under Dyson’s editorship at the Teeside Evening Gazette, the
paper pursued a similar line of questioning for 84 days to steel plant
Corus, which eventually did answer all the questions.

Rover’s Longbridge plant looked doomed in April after the company went into receivership and 5,000 workers lost their jobs.

MG Rover was bought in July by Chinese car giant Nanjing Automotive,
raising hopes that some level of car production could return to the
site and save the jobs of local employees.

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