Skeptical reporter’s disdain grabs limelight at NPC press event

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Liang Xiangyi's face of scorn stole the show at an NPC press conference on Tuesday. Photos: China Central Television screen grabs

Who said China’s annual parliamentary session was simply about rubber-stamping whatever bills had been decreed by the overlords in the ruling Communist Party?

As expected, the National People’s Congress passed an amendment to China’s constitution to unfetter party chieftain Xi Jinping from presidential term limits, and nothing happened that wasn’t in the carefully orchestrated script. Well, almost nothing. On Tuesday morning, a comely female reporter singlehandedly stole the show at an otherwise humdrum press conference in which ministers and NPC delegates took pre-approved questions from a floor comprised of reporters from party propaganda organs.

The young lady, Liang Xiangyi, said to be with the Shanghai-based China Business Network, frowned, grimaced, rolled her eyes and even turned away in apparent disdain during a press conference broadcast live on China Central Television. This was while another reporter next to her, Zhang Huijun, from the little-known Los Angeles-based Chinese language AMTV, went to great lengths to extol China’s reforms and parrot official lines about the Belt and Road initiative before posing a rather dull question on state asset regulation to Xiao Yaqing, the newly-installed director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

Xiao’s equally hackneyed response, in which he repeated a handful of party platitudes, was way shorter than Zhang’s question itself.

The video has gone viral on WeChat, Weibo and numerous other Chinese social networking platforms with netizens amazed by Liang’s seemingly spontaneous aversion to the bootlicking and adulation that have long been commonplace on China’s political and media scene.

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Liang Xiangyi, of the Shanghai-based China Business Network, showed her disdain for bootlicking during Tuesday’s NPC press conference. She has become something of a social media shooting star as a result. Photo: WeChat

The charming reporter from Shanghai, who brought a touch of levity to a gathering of sycophants, is now a social media shooting star. It is rumored, however, that the party’s propaganda department has lost no time in ordering its Shanghai branch to suspend her until further notice.

State sensors have also been busy pulling posts praising Liang and key-word searches for the reporter on China’s Baidu return no result.

Netizens have meanwhile had a field day, launching a “doxxing” operation, or cyber-manhunt, against Zhang.

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An undated photo shows Zhang Huijun hosting a CCTV event in front of a portrait of Mao Zedong. Zhang now covers major political events in China at the helm of a US-based TV channel. Photo: Baidu

It is believed that she got her start in media after taking part in a beauty pageant and spent a few years at CCTV before heading to the US to set up AMTV – which has all the hallmarks of an overseas propaganda outlet funded by Beijing to cast a positive spin on the party’s image internationally.

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News clips about Zhang covering the NPC session in Beijing were seen on AMTV’s website. But her videos have been pulled after the farce.

Zhang’s Weibo and WeChat pages are plastered with photos and selfies with senior party cadres and by fawning reports on Chinese politics.

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