Hubei governor snaps at questions over brash reporter

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am

Hubei governor Li Hongzhong has been in the spotlight in the past two days after a dispute with mainland reporters on Sunday on the sidelines of the National People's Congress in Beijing.

Li, a former mayor of Shenzhen and its Communist Party secretary between 2004 and 2007, was purple-faced again yesterday when asked by Hong Kong journalists about rumours his staff had taken a Beijing-based reporter's recorder on Sunday.

Li, an NPC member, kept silent and tried to avoid reporters at first. But when asked whether he would apologise to the mainland reporter yesterday, Li became upset.

'She [the reporter] was cheating,' Li said as he tried to push through the crowd to get to the full-house meeting of the NPC Plenary Session.

On Sunday, Li was reportedly offended when a reporter for the Beijing Times, which is under the jurisdiction of the People's Daily, asked him to comment on the case of Deng Yujiao , a Hubei masseuse who stabbed an official to death when he tried to rape her last year.

'Which newspaper do you work for?' Caijing magazine quoted him as saying in a report on its website.

The reporter, named Liu Jie , said she was from the People's Daily.

'The People's Daily? How come you are so obsessed with this topic?' he asked. The governor was apparently surprised that the question would be raised by the party's mouthpiece, which usually toes the official line.

'I will talk to your editor-in-chief about your question,' he said.

Other witnesses, mostly state media reporters, said Liu's recorder was confiscated by Li's staff. It was returned a few hours later.

Li's outburst sparked an outcry on the internet, with many accusing him of stamping on media freedom. A recording of the exchange was later uploaded to the internet.

Despite promises from organisers for greater media freedom, gaining access to deputies and attempts to get close to hotels where they stay have proved particularly difficult for overseas reporters during this year's NPC and CPPCC sessions.

Yesterday, two reporters from the South China Morning Post were denied entry by the guards of Henan Plaza, the designated government hotel for NPC delegates from Henan - even though two delegates had accepted interview requests through the NPC News Secretariat, and agreed to meet at the hotel.

Hong Kong reporters may interview delegates only from a line drawn outside the hotel, the guards insisted, and neither the delegates nor the media liaison officer of the Henan NPC delegation Liu Xiaobao could make the guards back down.

According to the 'Reporting Guidelines for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwanese Journalists', Hong Kong journalists may seek one-on-one interviews with delegates, and may do the interviews at the official media centre or at the hotels where the delegates stay.

Another Henan official in charge of arranging interviews for non-mainland reporters called later in the afternoon to say the rejection was because of a communication problem.

The interview was rescheduled for today.