A reporter’s viral eye roll causes commotion (and censorship) on Chinese social media

A press conference at the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.
Image: VCG via Getty Images

China’s annual “two sessions” meetings are as serious as they come when it comes to political affairs.

Taking place in Beijing, the event predictably gets extensive coverage in China. Yet a viral eye roll by reporter Liang Xiangyi has upstaged the stony-faced gathering, leading to her being censored on social media.

Liang, who works for Chinese business outlet Yicai, has swiftly become the subject of memes and parodies after she dramatically rolled her eyes on camera at Zhang Huijun, a reporter for U.S.-based American Multimedia Television.

Zhang, in red, asks a rather long-winded question to officials from China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, while Liang is on the left in blue.

According to a leaked WeChat conversation published by WhatsonWeibo, a colleague at Yicai told Liang that the moment was broadcasted live. Liang’s response to why she rolled her eyes so dramatically? “Because the woman next to me was being an idiot.”

The moment inevitably spawned imitators, who shared parodies of the moment via social media.

Yes, there were memes.

And even phone cases for sale.

Liang’s eye roll became the talk on Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform, where people argued over whether the moment was disrespectful, particularly as she was “foreign” media — or if it was just plain funny.

Both the reporter’s name “Liang Xiangyi” and the term referring to the moment, “question-asking bitch,” were eventually blocked on Weibo searches.

The viral moment also led to Liang’s press accreditation at the event being revoked, and her personal Weibo page was taken down, according to the South China Morning Post.

For those interested, here’s the lengthy question that was asked by Zhang as translated and published by the New York Times

“The transformation of the responsibility of supervision for state assets is a topic of universal concern. Therefore, as the director of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, what new moves will you make in 2018? This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Reform and Opening-up Policy, and our country is going to further extend its openness to foreign countries. With General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi proposing the One Belt One Road Initiative, state-owned enterprises have increased investment to countries along the route of One Belt One Road, so how can the overseas assets of state-owned enterprises be effectively supervised to prevent loss of assets? What mechanisms have we introduced so far, and what’s the result of our supervision? Please summarize for us, thank you.”

The Global Times, the English-language component of state publication People’s Daily, said there was “nothing to see” in the incident, in regard to discussions about whether it reflected the country’s political landscape.

Earlier in the week, China’s parliament decisively approved the removal of presidential term limits, with only two votes against the change. 

It’s a matter that has seen rare dissent against the country’s president Xi Jinping on social media, forcing censors to step in against Winnie the Pooh memes, which have been used to represent Xi.

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