Kong Linlin, one correspondent of Chinese state broadcaster CCTV based in the United Kingdom, has herself become the center of worldwide media attention.
On September 30, when attending a fringe event — entitled “The Erosion of Freedom, the Rule of Law, and Autonomy in Hong Kong” — at the U.K. Conservative Party annual conference, Kong yelled at the panel and refused to leave. She also had a physical conflict with attendees and was eventually removed by police.
The incident was partly captured on video. In the two-minute video clip posted online, Kong shouted at the panel in broken English, including “I am your owner,” “shame on you,” and “you are puppets.” When a young attendee tried to approach her and asked her to leave, she slapped him and shouted, “Don’t touch me. Leave me alone. I have the right to protest.”
However, there were two contradicting versions of what happened.
According to CCTV’s official statement, all Kong did at the event was “perform her duties.”
“Kong expressed her views when raising questions, becoming obstructed and even physically harassed,” the statement emphasized.
The statement said that Kong “had been released, and “had condolences extended to her,” without clarifying exactly who had extended the “condolences.”
On the other hand, the Hong Kong Free Press provided much more detail on the incident that run counter to CCTV’s account.
Conservative human rights activist Benedict Rogers told HKFP that he gave concluding remarks about ensuring Hong Kong’s handover agreement was honored, but was interrupted. “[A] Chinese woman, with an accredited press pass, stood up and screamed at me, very aggressively: ‘You are a liar. You are anti-China. You want to separate China. And you are not even Chinese. The rest are all traitors!’” Rogers recounted.
Enoch Lieu, a recent British graduate from Keele University who was born in Hong Kong, was volunteering at the event in Birmingham. He told HKFP that Kong claimed that the rest of the panel were puppets and “fake” Chinese. Kong also slapped him twice in the face when he asked her to leave.
HKFP said the video clip released online occurred after the slapping incident and that Benedict Rogers had confirmed the order of events with HKFP.
None of these details were mentioned in CCTV’s statement. Instead, CCTV urged the U.K. to “safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese journalists and ensure that such absurd incidents do not occur again.”
In addition, CCTV claimed that it has already “lodged an official protest to U.K. authorities over the treatment of Kong” and “is demanding an official apology from the event’s organizer.”
The Chinese Embassy in the U.K. also released a statement on October 1, fully in line with CCTV’s stance. The statement said:
In a country that boasts freedom of speech, it is puzzling that the Chinese journalist should encounter obstruction in such a way and even assault at the fringe event when she simply raised a question and expressed her opinions. This is completely unacceptable.
The statement also condemned “any attempts or actions that advocate Hong Kong independence.” It added that “China firmly opposes interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs by anyone or any organization in any form.”
Unsurprisingly, on Chinese social media, Kong’s behavior was generally described as “asking questions and being assaulted.” Kong was thus regarded by a large number of Chinese netizens as a “modern-day Mulan” for confronting Hong Kong separatists in the U.K.
Hu Xijin, editor of Global Times (one of China’s most nationalist state-run newspapers), defended Kong on his Weibo account. He said:
Whom did the CCTV reporter slap? The video clearly shows that she hit the hand of the person who grabbed her, and she shouted: “You don’t touch me, you have no right.” Some media in Hong Kong and the extreme opposition parties in Hong Kong claimed that the CCTV female reporter had “slapped” a volunteer. Thanks to the video, otherwise their fake news would become truth. This alone shows that the extreme opposition in Hong Kong and the media supporting them have no bottom line, and their description of the incident is not credible… The common sense is that a reporter has the right to enter such an event and ask the sharpest questions.
So far, Hu’s post has received 1,693 thumbs-up.