Remember Priya Varrier, the actress whose film wink became a country-wide sensation in India? Well, China may just have got their own version of Varrier. The only difference is, the officials don’t want it.
Liang Xiangyi, a Shanghai-based financial journalist, became on overnight internet sensation in China for a dramatic, sensational eye-roll. It came during a press conference following a two-week gathering of the National People’s Congress in China. The questions at the press conference are usually pre-approved – and included an exasperatingly long soft-ball question (below) by another journalist identified as Zhang Huijun, a reporter from a US-based channel.
Liang couldn’t retain her disdain at the question, leading to a theatrical roll of her eyes, broadcast live on CCTV, China’s State Broadcaster. Overnight, Liang became a sensation on Weibo, China’s leading social media platform.
Within minutes, there were memes, cartoons and parody videos celebrating Liang’s inadvertent dissent. It even kickstarted a divide into “blue” and “red” camps based on the colours the two journalists were dressed in.
But it wasn’t long before the censors stepped in. According to a leaked censorship directive revealed by the China Digital Times, journalists were warned. “Urgent notice: all media personnel are prohibited from discussing the Two Session blue-clothed reporter incident on social media. Anything already posted must be deleted. Without exception, websites must not hype the episode.”
South China Morning Post reported that because of the eye-roll, Liang’s permission to cover the NPS had been revoked. According to The Guardian, the journalist’s Weibo account had been closed, and rumours swirled that she had been fired.