Eye-roll plot thickens as petition demands probe into US broadcaster’s Communist Party ties

Petitioners want a White House investigation to determine whether US-based American Multimedia Television is linked to Beijing’s publicity apparatus

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 7:08am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 9:30pm

Hundreds of internet users have signed a petition calling on the White House to investigate a US-based broadcaster and its ties to the Chinese Communist Party after a Chinese journalist’s eye-roll set off a storm online.

The petitioners want the investigation to determine whether Los Angeles-based American Multimedia Television USA (AMTV) is linked to the publicity apparatus of the Chinese government. 

“Based on the Foreign Agents Registration Act, we ask to investigate its fund sources and cooperation with the Communist Party of China and shut it down if it is found to have violated the law,” the petition on Petitions.whitehouse.gov says.

 

The plea came after Zhang Huijun, who claimed to be the operating director of AMTV, posed a long-winded, softball question to a Chinese official during the National People’s Congress, prompting a theatrical eye-roll from a journalist from financial news site China Business News, standing next to her. 

The gesture, broadcast live on television, lit up China’s internet, and raised questions about Zhang’s background and the broadcast outlet she represents. 

The media accreditation of the China Business News reporter, Liang Xiangyi, to cover the NPC, ultimately was revoked, according to one of her colleagues. But other sources claimed the authorities had not said anything about her accreditation.

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Some 689 people had signed the petition as of Thursday night.

AMTV could not be reached for comment.

According to its official website, AMTV, founded in 2004, offers Mandarin-language programmes across 14 US cities. 

Under its partnership with China’s state broadcaster, it showed its programmes on an international channel from 2006 to 2008. 

Internet users have dug up archival footage of Zhang representing two different media outlets in 2011 and 2013. 

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In a video clip from the National People’s Congress in 2013, Zhang introduces herself as a reporter from World Affairs, a Chinese magazine founded by early communist Hu Yuzhi in 1934.

In a video from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 2011, Zhang is seen posing a question as the operating director of “Hong Kong Cable Broadcast of China Economy and Tourism”. 

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Zhang’s and Liang’s names remained blocked in search results on social media platform Weibo on Thursday.

But still many internet users were positive about Liang.

“Nicely done! You gave an eye-roll on our behalf!” one commenter said.

“I am clapping for your honesty! Such questions are annoying and do not have any meaning,” said another.

The incident took place in the “Ministers’ Corridor”, a fenced-off area from which reporters can ask questions of government ministers after the end of the NPC meetings. But many of the questions are screened, and Zhang was picked to ask her question.