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Warm yet cautious welcome for foreign media at NPC session

Source: | 03-15-2007 08:46

Special Report:   2007 NPC & CPPCC sessions

This year's National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference sessions in Beijing have scored a first in terms of allowing foreign media to directly contact NPC deputies and CPPCC members for interviews. Now into its last few days of meetings, Let's take a look at how this new system has worked out so far.

China has a registered foreign media population of 606 resident journalists from 319 overseas news organizations of 49 countries and regions.

According to latest regulations, which took effect on January 1, foreign reporters have been given equal reporting rights from within China for the run-up to, and during, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The regulations also allow them to report on other China-related topics.

"It has become more convenient to cover stories in China after the new regulations were released. We feel that China has become more open," Christoph Lutgert, chief reporter with ARD German Television, told

This is the third time that Lutgert is covering the country's biggest annual political event. He said that compared with before, the reporting process has become more efficient primarily because he only needs to obtain the permission of the people he wishes to interview. Previously, authorization had to be obtained from the relevant media authorities.

Gennady Krivosheev, the Beijing bureau chief of Russia's Interfax News Agency, revealed that he had to date successfully reported on several delegation group discussions.

Speaking in Chinese, he said: "There is almost no obstacle. If your Chinese is OK, you can listen to anything and report it immediately. Yes, no problem! I first came to China in 1978 and have been based here in Beijing for the last five years. You see, my Chinese is almost excellent!

"I plan to interview a few NPC deputies and CCPPCC members on the energy cooperation between Russia and China. If you know the people, and if you know the culture and language, you can do the job better."

Echoing Krivosheev's view was Isolda Morillo, a producer with Spanish Television (TVE): "You know, when I interview them in Chinese, the deputies and members are very surprised and glad to answer my questions. I have interviewed many guys. I feel they are all cooperative.

"I feel satisfied that Chinese people are very outspoken. They are very happy to be interviewed by foreign media," she added, also in Chinese.

However, things have not been as smooth-sailing for other journalists.

A resident reporter with Japan-based NHK television station, who declined to give his name, said: "I once asked some deputies from the military delegation about the defense budget increase and Taiwan. They walked away from me refusing to say anything."

"They also often use the excuse, 'I already have an arrangement'. So, we have to stop them and rush through the questions with them. It is not very easy to communicate with them," according to Hung Yee Man from the News and Public Affairs Division of Asia Television Limited. took these comments to the NPC deputies and CPPCC members for their side of the story.

Deputy Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, president of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said: "Sometimes we are really very busy. We are always mobbed by reporters. Taking myself as an example, I am very busy and have lots of appointments. After a-day-long meeting, I often feel tired. To be honest, after a long discussion, I am not willing to give any interviews. I expect the media to understand."

Wang Tiecheng, vice chairman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, added that different journalists tend to ask him the same questions: "If the same questions are asked by the media in the same day over and over, who would feel glad about answering them? We welcome questions from media, but not the same ones."

A deputy from military delegation, who asked not to be named, explained that it is not always convenient to answer all questions, especially those are too closely linked to national security, foreign diplomacy or issues that can be classified as military secrets.

"It is not appropriate for deputies or members to comment on some of these issues. Journalists should get the information they need from related authorities. If they want to report on these issues, they should refer to publicly available policies, not personal opinions."

He added: "We are happy to grant interviews. But we are also aware that some foreign media tend to miscontrue what we say and take our words out of context in their reports."

"To put it plainly, we welcome the foreign media with fear."

The deputy went on to say: "Sometimes the questions are too difficult to be answered. They are so complex and cannot be adequately dealt with in rushed interviews during meeting breaks. As the old English saying goes. 'To err is human, to forgive divine'. If some deputies say certain things out of carelessness, the media should judge it and understand it, not propagate it. The media has its responsibilities, too."

On the subject of complex issues, some of the deputies spoke with admitted that they were unable to answer certain questions because they were beyond their scope of knowledge.

Wu Xinchun from the Sichuan Delegation was asked to give her views on the proposed Property Law and Corporate Income Tax Law from the legal standpoint.

She explained: "Although I am a deputy, I am still a normal person. I cannot know every field and answer any question. I am just a teacher working at the grassroots level. My focus is education and the health system."

"Through education, I know a little about these new laws. But asking me to give a view on the legal side of things? It is too difficult. So I will not accept such interviews. I am willing to cooperate with the media, but only up to a point."


Editor:Du Xiaodan