It started out as a tedious question lobbed at a Chinese passing government minister but ended as a memorable unscripted TV moment at the country’s biggest political event of the year.
Footage of China Business News journalist Liang Xiangyi rolling her eyes in apparent exasperation at another journalist during a staged doorstop at the Great Hall of the People was beamed live on national television and soon took on a life of its own online, inspiring memes before the censors came in for the cut and the authorities revoked her media accreditation.
Liang was standing beside Zhang Huijun, from American Multimedia Television USA, as Zhang began lobbing a question at state assets chief Xiao Yaqing after the morning session of the National People’s Congress.
Liang looked at Zhang as she started to speak, turning her head and giving a little sigh.
Zhang pressed on with her “question”, spinning it out with background on the 40th anniversary of China’s opening up and reform, prompting to Liang to rest her chin on her fist and raise her eyebrows as she looked at Zhang again.
And that’s when the eye-roll happened.
With the clock on Zhang’s question hitting the 40-second mark, Liang turned a missable encounter into a made-for-TV moment.
Cue the viral video cut-outs and comments on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
“Nicely done! You gave an eye-roll on our behalf!” one commenter said.
“I am clapping for your honesty! Such questions are annoying and do not have any meaning,” said another.
But hours later, Liang’s media accreditation to cover the NPC was revoked, according to one of her colleagues.
By Tuesday night, her personal Weibo page had been taken down and search results of her name on the social media platform were censored.
The incident took place in the “Ministers’ Corridor”, a fenced-off area from which reporters can ask questions of government ministers after the end of the NPC meetings. But many of the questions are screened, and Zhang was picked to ask her question.
The website of American Multimedia Television USA says the organisation is based in Seattle, and all their video reports are in Mandarin.