A journalist with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV – who was accused of slapping a volunteer during a conference – has been released without charge after diplomatic pressure, according to the TV station.
UK Conservative Party member Enoch Lieu said he was assaulted on Sunday by Kong Linlin, a CCTV reporter based in London, during a Hong Kong fringe event at the party’s annual conference in Birmingham, where he was helping as a volunteer.
Kong stood up and shouted at Benedict Rogers – a Conservative Party human rights activist – whilst he was giving concluding remarks. She accused Rogers of being anti-China and wanting to divide China, and called the speakers from Hong Kong traitors.
British MP Fiona Bruce, who was chairing the event, asked Kong to leave before Lieu stepped in to escort her out. Lieu said he was slapped twice by Kong during the confrontation.
A widely-shared video clip posted by Hong Kong Watch, the event’s co-organiser, showed Kong being escorted out of the room after the alleged assault. Kong was then arrested by local police and was released on Monday night. The police said their investigation was continuing.
The Chinese Embassy in London said on Monday that Kong was obstructed and assaulted “when she simply raised a question and expressed her opinions.” The Embassy, as well as CCTV, demanded an apology from the event’s organiser.
A CCTV statement issued later on Monday said Kong was released after a brief detention, “amid stern representations from the Chinese Embassy in the UK and public pressure.”
“An attorney said the event organizers handled the incident inappropriately. Any attempt or action to divide China is futile and against the trend of history,” a CCTV spokesperson said.
“We urge the UK side to take concrete steps to protect our journalist’s legitimate rights and avoid such absurd incidents from happening again,” the spokesperson added.
Rose Luqiu, a former executive news editor for Phoenix Satellite Television in Hong Kong, said the incident showcased a core idea behind the Chinese media structure: “The media serve the interests of the party – they must be loyal to the party.”
— 闾丘露薇 (@roseluqiu) October 2, 2018
Luqiu, now an assistant professor at the Department of Journalism of Hong Kong Baptist University, added: “It is the duty of these propaganda workers to dare to ‘draw their swords’ – therefore it is no surprise that we see high-profile responses from the government and strong support in public opinion. It is their duty as designated by the media structure.”
“It is basic knowledge that the Chinese government’s definition of a journalist’s role is different from the professional standard taught at schools overseas,” Luqiu said.
After Kong was released, she retweeted messages supportive of her, and challenged a report from BuzzFeed World: “Hey Guy,Who threat who ? Don’t play the far right wing game with me.”
The incident became one of the top trending topics on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Tuesday.
Hey Guy,Who threat who ? Don’t play the far right wing game with me. pic.twitter.com/U17VGPikGY
— Linlin Kong (@LinlinKong) October 2, 2018
Many commenters expressed support for Kong. In one post, a commentator praised Kong for attacking a “Hong Kong independence advocate,” apparently referring to Lieu.
“On this festive national day, let us all give her a like,” the post said.
But others were more critical of Kong’s behaviour: “[She was] making a row, pointing fingers, attacking others – she was not civilised and was a shame to all of us.”
The incident came after a spat over a satirical Swedish TV show which mocked three Chinese tourists who were ejected from a Stockholm hotel.
The Chinese Embassy in Sweden has rejected an “apology” from Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT and said the programme amounted to “a gross insult to and vicious attack on China and the Chinese people.”