President Jiang Zemin's tirade against the Hong Kong media yesterday was an over-reaction triggered by a legitimate question, journalists and legislators said. They were speaking after Mr Jiang accused journalists of lacking knowledge and asking 'simplistic and naive' questions at a photo-call for Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. Mr Jiang appeared to lose his temper when he was asked by Cable TV political reporter Sharon Cheung, a former South China Morning Post journalist, whether his support for Mr Tung to seek a second term amounted to an 'imperial order'. Mak Yin-ting, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, said: 'The questions are sensible and legitimate. The media is just reflecting the views of the community. 'There are worries whether the principle of 'one country, two systems' is being implemented after Vice-Premier Qian Qichen said he supported Mr Tung serving another term. 'He seems to have mixed up the views of the media and the views reported by the media. Maybe the media asked the right question and that's why he reacted so strongly. Simple questions are good questions. The interviewees have no room for manoeuvre.' Ms Mak said Mr Jiang reminded journalists to take responsibility for what they reported and not to deviate. 'However, we learnt this in college and there is no need for Mr Jiang to remind us. I don't see journalists at the scene being intimidated by him. They still tried hard to ask questions. 'People may resort to legal means if they are not satisfied with media reports. On the other hand, state leaders should also be responsible for what they say, including the effect on their image.' Cheung Kin-bor, chairman of the News Executives Association, said the questions asked by journalists were reasonable. Tung Chee-hwa's tenure was two-thirds of the way through and the public wanted to know whether he would stand again. 'In a society with press freedom, journalists ask questions that are of concern to the public, not according to the will of the officials. That's the way it has been in the past and should be in the future,' Mr Cheung said. However, Chiu Wai-biu, chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists, said the questions were 'too direct'. 'The meaning of 'imperial order' is not good. It means an order of the king, but we are in a democratic society. He has the right to voice his views on Hong Kong media, although his attitude is debatable.' The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing, a former journalist, said Mr Jiang's reaction had not been statesmanlike. 'He was agitated because he wanted to maintain the fake belief that Tung is elected,' she said. 'His manner gave the impression he wanted to intimidate journalists, both frontline reporters and bosses. 'He is the president of the PRC. He should behave calmly instead of being so agitated. I have never seen state leaders behaving in such a way. Of course some [journalists] ask smart questions and some don't. You have to live with that.' During his attack on the media, the President compared members of the Hong Kong media unfavourably with American journalist Mike Wallace, who interviewed the President for the CBS show 60 Minutes in early September. The programme was aired just before Mr Jiang attended the United Nations Millennium Summit, and the President said he had talked and laughed with Wallace freely. Mr Jiang said then that he had rarely given interviews to US television reporters during the past 10 years because Americans refused to believe that most Chinese were satisfied with one-party rule. He objected when Wallace called China a dictatorship. 'Your way of describing what things are like in China is as absurd as what the Arabian Nights may sound like,' Mr Jiang said. Asked if he admired the courage of the man who faced off against the tank in Beijing in 1989, Mr Jiang replied that the protester was never arrested. 'I don't know where he is now. Looking at the picture, I know he definitely had his own ideas,' Mr Jiang replied, but was pressed again to reply. 'I know what you are driving at, but what I want to emphasise is that we fully respect every citizen's right to freely express his wishes and desires . . . 'But I do not favour any flagrant opposition to government actions during an emergency. The tank stopped and did not run the young man down.'