CCTV host's jibes defended by state media

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am


State media has begun responding to a controversy whipped up last week by popular CCTV host Yang Rui's call to 'clean out foreign trash'.

The Chinese-language version of the Global Times published a harsh front-page story yesterday that was preceded by a softer editorial in both the Chinese and English versions of the paper the day before.

The Chinese version of the newspaper, known to be more conservative than its English sister publication, ran a front-page report yesterday headlined 'Foreign media fabricating xenophobia claim again China'.

The report also defended Yang, who made the comments on his personal microblog and also used foul language. Others haven't been so quick to give Yang a pass, with calls for foreigners to not appear on the English-language programme Dialogue, which Yang hosts, until he is sacked.

Wednesday's editorial appeared to be an attempt to calm both upset foreigners and angry mainlanders, after anti-foreigner sentiment spread online following two incidents caught on video: a British man said to be sexually assaulting a Chinese woman in Beijing, and a Russian cellist insulting a Chinese passenger on a mainland train.

Analysts said the editorial could have been written under an order by higher authorities to calm tensions, but it could also suggest a growing call among the public for a rational response to the Yang incident.

The English version, headlined 'Yang Rui was insensitive, but shouldn't be sacked', said 'Yang's wording was too harsh'. In the post, he voiced support for a new campaign by Beijing police to crack down on foreigners who have illegally entered China, overstayed or live and work on the mainland in violation of their visa conditions, calling them 'foreign trash', 'foreign thugs', and 'foreign spies'. He also called an expelled foreign journalist a 'foreign shrew', which was translated by most Western media as 'foreign bitch'. He was referring to an Al Jazeera correspondent, American-Chinese Melissa Chan, who was expelled from China earlier this month.

The editorial said Yang's post referred only to foreigners who illegally live and work in China, but didn't talk about the contribution of other foreigners. 'He slammed many foreigners, which made it a media sensation and led to a misunderstanding among foreigners.'

And the editorial expressed hope that Yang 'posts his comments with more caution' in the future, but added calls for him to be sacked were 'harsh and sensationalist'.

It also emphasised that Yang's comments were made on his personal microblog, while pointing out that CCN commentator Jack Cafferty called Chinese 'goons and thugs' in 2008, but wasn't fired.

'The Beijing authorities' crackdown on illegal immigrants has nothing to do with anti-foreign sentiments. The Chinese public generally holds a kind and friendly view towards foreigners,' the editorial concluded. 'The anti-foreigner campaigns seen in some Western countries will not be staged in China.'

Communications Professor Yin Hong of Tsinghua University said the controversy occurred as mainlanders are becoming more sensitive about conflicts between China and other nations.