Chinese reporter Liang Xiangyi eye-rolled during another reporter’s long-winded question at the National People’s Congress yesterday and the moment has gone viral. Many Chinese residents have created dozens of videos, GIFs, memes, and illustrations inspired by the scene, having identified with Liang’s frustration. (Since Liang dressed in blue and the other reporter dressed in red, the moment has also birthed blue and red memes.)
Chinese state-run media has responded by censoring the videos of the incident. Internet censors have also blocked searches for Liang Xiangyi’s name. It’s an unusual moment, considering the Congress is typically dry and uneventful.
During the National People’s Congress last night (Tuesday morning in Beijing time), Liang, who’s with the Shanghai-based business channel Yicai, looks back at the reporter next to her who’s going on and then looks away out of disdain, rolling her eyes hard. The American reporter, Zhang Huijun, is from America Multimedia TV, a Chinese-language TV station, which has a partnership with China’s CCTV.
Zhang introduces herself and then asks a long and wordy question to a state council regulator about how “overseas assets of state-owned enterprises will be effectively supervised to prevent the loss of capital from state-owned enterprises.”
Her question, which can already fit two paragraphs in English, repeated itself twice and was filled with padded statements. Liang’s eye roll seems to have been a sign of disgust at Zhang’s flattery. Liang reportedly said she rolled her eyes because “the person next to me was being an idiot,” according to a leaked chat spotted by WhatsonWeibo.
Other reporters have called Liang’s behavior into question. The state-run Guangzhou Daily’s staff member Dai Bin wrote in a personal Weibo post, “This is a serious occasion, and people have to pay attention to the time they use asking a question — after all, it’s the National People’s Congress. As for the woman who rolls her eyes, perhaps she is forgetting that she is being filmed, and forgot about her manners. May this be a lesson for her,” as translated by WhatsonWeibo.
The Congress started its two-week meet over the weekend and quickly voted to abolish term limits for President Xi Jinping. Anything that could be remotely perceived as anti-government has been censored in the past few weeks, as locals’ frustration over Xi’s possible lifetime rule grows.
Police have even ordered restaurants in Wudaokou, a popular student area in Beijing, to place limits on how many foreigners they can serve at a time. Pyro Pizza posted a notice this week saying, “Until March 22nd, every Friday night and Saturday, as requested by local authorities, we can only allow a maximum of 10 foreigners in our store at a time.”
As residents’ frustrations increase, and “Not My President” and “I disagree” posters continue to crop up outside of China, we can expect more viral moments like this one, as veiled and obscure as they might be, and we can expect censorship to follow.