Television newscaster replaced on air for lashing out at corrupt officials

Weibo commentators allege that the presenter was intentionally "censored"

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 9:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 11:55am

The host of a Chinese online news show was interrupted and replaced live on air yesterday for criticising government officials.

The presenter behind the incident was Cui Jianbin of Longshang Channel, an online news show focused on agricultural news and sponsored by Hubei Television.

Cui was presenting a report on government officials who had built a luxury office building in Hubei’s Fangxian county – an area eligible for state poverty relief.

After finishing the report, Cui began speaking freely, vehemently criticising “wasteful and corrupt” officials who spent extravagant amounts of money despite the struggles of average citizens.

Cui’s tirade was interrupted, presumably by a staff member off-screen, and after asking out loud if he could finish speaking, Cui stormed off stage.

Watch: TV presenter in China rages at local officials on camera

The original broadcast of the clip, which appeared online on Wednesday, cuts to an advert after Cui leaves the stage and has another reporter continue the broadcast with an unrelated news item.

The clip was ironically uploaded to Sina Video and posted on a Weibo account with the name “Jianghan News Network”. The account is seemingly run by a fellow journalist at Hubei Television’s Longshang Channel, but Post requests for confirmation went unanswered today.

Sina Video has since deleted the clip, although it can still be found online in its entirety on other video sharing websites.

News of the clip quickly began trending on Weibo, with netizens claiming that cutting Cui’s speech was “an obvious case of censorship”.

A Weibo hashtag discussing the incident attracted over three hundred microbloggers by mid-afternoon, and others began posting “Please let Cui Jianbin finish” as comments on Longshang Channel’s official Weibo page.

“This is the power of public opinion,” wrote one netizen in support of Cui. “Unfortunately, the media does not allow such fierce rhetoric to spread to the people, because the media has become…a tool and a propaganda mouthpiece.”

“Many children’s schools [in Hubei] are under renovation, but the [government officials] have money to go and build fancy offices?” another asked. “Those who have a conscience and a sense of responsibility should not allow such rampant corruption.”

Other Weibo commentators were not as sympathetic and argued that Cui’s tirade was unprofessional.

“The host of a programme like this needs to avoid uncontrollable emotions getting the better of him,” wrote one blogger. “[Cui] lost his objective and impartial professionalism, so it’s only natural that the television network would need to temporarily substitute [another reporter] for him.”

Despite many internet users' worries that the newscaster might lose his job, a Weibo post on Wednesday night seemed to indicate that Cui didn't incur too much trouble over his on-air rant. 

"I really didn't expect it to become such a big deal," Cui wrote on his verified microblog. "I thank netizens for their concerns. My job was not affected." He did admit, though, that he had been reprimanded by his supervisors for "losing control of his emotions."

Neither Cui nor Hubei Television replied to requests for interviews on Wednesday. 

Cui posted a picture of himself in front of a microphone on Thursday morning, saying he was resuming live broadcast.