|Media has questions about questions at NPC
Officials at China's legislature are calling on seemingly planted foreign journalists to ask soft questions in an apparent bid to appear open to independent scrutiny, provoking grumbles after a similar controversy two years ago.
At a press conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress today featuring central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan and other top officials, the moderator called on Louise Kenney, who said she was a reporter from “Australia's Global CAMG.’’
Rather than address uncomfortable issues such as corruption, she asked about government policy on allowing more foreign companies to enter the agricultural insurance market.
In response another foreign reporter shouted out in Chinese: “Call on a real foreign journalist, not a fake one,'' to applause and laughter from the room.
Even when mainstream foreign media organizations ask questions, they are discussed with officials beforehand.
Kenney was also called to ask a question at a finance minister's press conference last week, when she asked about couples who divorce to avoid paying taxes on their second home.
It is the second time in three years that Chinese authorities' use of foreigners at major political gatherings has drawn controversy, with the reporters chosen to ask questions employed by the same Chinese-owned company.
Global CAMG Media Group has an office in Melbourne but is majority-owned by Beijing and has close ties to Chinese state-run media. Its website lists a main address and telephone number in Beijing.
An employee at its office in Beijing confirmed to AFP that Kenney works for the company but said that she is based in Australia, not China.
Another CAMG employee, Andrea Yu, raised eyebrows at the Communist Party Congress in 2012 – when she was called upon by moderators at least four separate times.
Yu later acknowledged in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the company's majority shareholding is from China.
“I am aware that I can't ask the hard questions that I may personally be interested in asking because of who I'm representing,'' she said.