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Viral eye-roll sparks trouble in China

IT WAS a candid, funny moment that caught the internet’s eye and went viral around the world, but it has ended in serious trouble for the woman at the centre of the story.

When one Chinese reporter asked a tame question at a news conference, another looked her up and down, rolled her eyes and turned away.

Her reaction was caught on camera and widely shared on China’s WeChat, a popular messaging service similar to WhatsApp.

The meme travelled across the world, with social media users creating parodies and T-shirts and mobile phone cases bearing her image appearing for sale online.

“Please let this reporter into the White House press corps,” wrote one user.

“Presser etiquette is always to save the outright scorn till AFTERWARDS,” remarked Australian sports journalist Mary Gearin.

But China’s government, which is notorious for controlling internet access, did not find the clip quite so funny.

Users quickly worked out the identity of the eye-rolling reporter in blue, Liang Xiangyi from Shanghai-based business TV channel Yicai.

Not long after, search results for her name were blocked on Weibo, China’s largest social network, which is much like Twitter. It is now the most censored term on the platform, according to FreeWeibo.

The journalist in red was identified as Zhang Huijun from American Multimedia Television, a California-based Chinese network that is a partner of state-owned China Central Television.

Her lengthy question began: “The transformation of the responsibility of supervision for state assets is a topic of universal concern. Therefore, as the director of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, what new moves will you make in 2018?

“This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Reform and Opening-up Policy, and our country is going to further extend its openness to foreign countries. With General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi proposing the One Belt One Road Initiative, state-owned enterprises have increased investment to countries along the route of One Belt One Road, so how can the overseas assets of state-owned enterprises be effectively supervised to prevent loss of assets? What mechanisms have we introduced so far, and what’s the result of our supervision?”

It came during the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, which state media typically reports in an entirely positive light, with topics and questions mostly agreed upon in advance.

Many thought the reporters’ choice of clothing told a story, with Ms Zhang dressed in the colour of China’s communist party and Ms Liang providing a counterpoint in bright blue.

Ms Liang reportedly commented online that the woman “was being an idiot”, according to the blog WhatsOnWeibo.

A Chinese social media user thanked her for “an eye-rolling representing all people who don’t dare to do so.”

Rumours have been circulating that Ms Liang has been reprimanded or fired by her company, but there is no evidence to prove this is true.

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