BEIJING – It hesitated for hours over the sensitive footage of a protester in Britain shouting “dictator” and throwing a shoe at Premier Wen Jiabao. But finally, China’s carefully controlled state broadcaster ran it Tuesday.
The move was a remarkable display of openness, but the footage already was leaking into China via satellite television and the Internet. Critics said it showed the increasing power of such media to erode strict information controls.
“It is impossible for a country to shut out a piece of news,” said Shao Peiren, head of Zhejiang University’s communications research institute in eastern China.
The first Chinese reports on the protest during Wen’s visit to Britain’s Cambridge University left out key details, including that a shoe had been thrown.
But the China Central Television broadcast had it all. The evening news showed the footage among the first stories of its half-hour broadcast, leading into it with a report on Wen’s speech itself and his return to Beijing.
Then the shoe-throwing footage was shown, with no commentary from the anchors, just a simple news setup.
The camera was fixed on Wen, but later cut to the whistle-blowing protester being removed from the hall, while the audience shouted “Get out.”
“How can this university prostitute itself with this dictator here? How can you listen … to him unchallenged?” the man – who has yet to be identified – could be heard shouting.
The sound of the shoe hitting the stage, away from Wen, could be heard as well.
Wen paused for about one minute and then continued his speech.
“Teachers and students, this kind of dirty trick cannot stop the friendship between the Chinese and the British people,” Wen said, followed by applause.