China upset over shoe protest, but no harm to UK ties
A protestor threw a shoe at Premier Wen Jiabao as he gave a speech at Cambridge University in England on Monday.BEIJING – China said Tuesday it had expressed its strong dissatisfaction to the British government over a protester throwing a shoe at Premier Wen Jiabao, but emphasised that bilateral ties would not be harmed.
The government appeared to want to play down the embarrassing incident domestically, with the state-run press either censoring or ignoring the event and Internet chatter about it restricted to a few pro-China comments.
"The Chinese side has expressed its strong dissatisfaction about the incident," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement.
But it then acknowledged the British government had expressed "deep regret" and police had charged the 27-year-old man who hurled a shoe at Wen as the premier gave a speech at Cambridge University in England on Monday.
"The British side... said Britain would punish this person in accordance with laws," Jiang said.
"Facts show the troublemaker who conducted this mean act is not accepted by the public, and he will not stop the trend of a developing friendly relationship between China and Britain."
In a clear echo of the Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at George W Bush in Baghdad in December, the protester in Cambridge shouted: "This is a scandal," as he interrupted Wen's speech from the back of the auditorium.
"This dictator here, how can you listen to the lies he's telling? You are not challenging him," he said before blowing a whistle and hurling a sports trainer at Wen, who had been discussing China's role in the globalised world.
The shoe landed about a metre away from Wen, who glanced sharply to one side to watch it hit the stage, but did not appear frightened and kept his composure.
As the protester was bundled out, he shouted to audience members: "Stand up and protest," to which some of the spectators - most of whom appeared to be Chinese students - retorted: "Shame on you, shame on you."
After the interruption, Wen reproached the demonstrator.
"This despicable behaviour cannot stand in the way of friendship between China and the UK," he said, receiving a round of applause from the audience.
Chinese media made scant mention of the shoe-throwing incident, with the official Xinhua news agency saying only that a "disturbance" during the speech had led to a reaction from the nation's foreign ministry.
It did not describe what the "disturbance" was.
Some other official media, such as the People's Daily newspaper, omitted the incident completely when reporting on Wen's speech.
China's main television station, CCTV, which broadcast the speech live, abruptly cut away from the coverage when the protest happened.
There was only a little more discussion about the protest within China's Internet community, which also faces government censorship.
Comments on Internet blogs expressed strong support for Wen, a politician who is liked in China due to his populist touch, but it was impossible to tell if censors deleted dissenting views as regularly happens on other issues.
"Our great Premier," said one netizen on popular news web portal sohu.com.
"We have confidence in going through the global economic crisis under the Premier's leadership, we have determination, and a minority of people doing despicable acts cannot stop us."
Nationalist comments were posted in English on chinaren.com, another popular online portal.
"I might not support the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), but I fully and truly support the one-China ideology," a netizen said.
"Anyone against this, particularly any America, Brit, Russian, German, French, etc. should look at what they have done in the past few centuries and reflect on their own actions first before castigating others."
[AFP / Expatica]