Journalists, Twitterers, and the Media Demand Apology from Hubei Governor Li Hongzhong

At this week’s NPC meeting, Hubei governor Li Hongzhong became a hot topic in the Chinese twittersphere (see here for all tweets on the topic) after he reprimanded a journalist and forcibly grabbed away her voice recorder when she asked him about the case of Deng Yujiao, a waitress who killed a local official for sexually assaulting her. Global Voices translates a blogger’s post about the incident:

Then the workers began trying to clear a path for the governor to leave. One reporter from Beijing Times hurriedly asked: Governor, what are your thoughts on Deng Yujiao? Li Hongzhong became enraged, and his face went cloudy in 0.1 seconds flat as he scowled at this reporter. He looked at the pen recorder and the hands holding it and, moving subtly but firmly, grabbed hold of them. He then stormed out into the hall. At the main door, Li stopped and asked furiously of this reporter, “which media are you from?” “I’m from People’s Daily” (note: Beijing Times is a commercial paper affiliate of People’s Daily). “And you’re a Party paper! This isn’t how a Party paper handles opinion guidance! I’m going to your publisher!!” And then without looking back, Li Hongzhong went to the elevator and back to his room. The reporters standing around looked on, dumbfounded. Reportedly, at this time, this female reporter began to tear up, feeling hurt.

Listen to an audio recording of the exchange here. Now, several Chinese media have publicly called on Li to apologize to the reporter, identified as Liu Jie of the Beijing Times, an offshoot of the People’s Daily.

Li Hongzhong’s story was the perfect storm for netizens. “Hongzhong Grabbing the Recorder” became a new hot online expression. Here are some samples of sarcastic comments from Chinese Twitterers, at the tag #lihongzhong:

* Sony Advertisement: the recorder even Chinese governors want to grab. (Jie Liu’s pen was a Sony.)

* Grabbing a recorder should be his staff’s job. This governor did it himself, so down to earth. Good official!.

* Let my three-year-old daughter explain this to you: “If one take something after the owner agrees, that is called borrowing; if the owner did not agree and one takes it in front of the owner, it’s called grabbing; if one takes it behind the back of owner without agreement, it’s called stealing.”

“Watch out, the governor will come… No recording allowed!”:

T-shirt for women reporters at the “two sessions”: “Please don’t grab my recorder; you can talk to my boss”:

From Cartoonist Guaiguai’s BlogTD website: “This ‘Two Sessions’ recorder is stealing-, grabbing- and governor-proof, perfect for you female reporters…”

The following cartoon is from Sohu Community:

Caijing’s website published at least three articles on this topic, one titled: “Li Hongzhong Grabs Female Reporter’s Recorder,” and an editorial titled, “Governor Li, Please Publicly Apologize.” Southern Metropolis Daily, Times Weekly (时代周报), New Daily (新快报), Youth Times (青年时报), and Yancheng Evening News (羊城晚报) all published editorials as well. Two former high government officials, Zhou Ruijin (周瑞金), the former deputy editor-in-chief of People’s Daily under Jiang Zemin, and Zhong Peizhang, in his 80s, former director of the News Bureau of Central Propaganda Department, wrote commentaries on the issue for Caijing. Those former senior officials have strong ties with Chinese media, and some of them have become very outspoken on various topics after they left their official positions.

The Global Times reports that Li refuses to apologize:

“We thought she might not be a reporter, so we took away her recorder to check,” he said.

In response, Li allegedly snapped her tape recorder and one of his followers grabbed the identification card around her neck and inspected it.

…In response to the Internet comments, Li said the reporter is now free to talk to him if she is unhappy about the incident. He said there is no need to raise the incident all over the Internet.

As of Thursday, more than 1,200 comments about Li’s explanation appeared on a forum.

See also ESWN’s translation of an interview with Li.

Then today, an official who oversees Chinese media emphasized that Chinese journalists should undergo training in Marxist theory. From the Guardian:

Li Dongdong, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publication, told the South China Morning Post that some mainland reporters were giving Chinese journalism a bad name because they were not properly trained.

Under communist theories of journalism, media should support the leadership rather than operate as a watchdog.

The initiative seems to be aimed at mainland journalists only.

Chinese officials already routinely censor journalists, but Chinese media has become less restricted in recent years as they have gained more revenue from independent sources via advertising.

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