BEIJING (Reuters) - China lodged a formal complaint against U.S. television network CNN and said it should make a sincere apology for what it called a vicious attack by one of its commentators who labeled Chinese as “goons” and its products “junk”.
CNN responded to China’s initial criticism by saying there had been no intent to cause offence and that it “would apologize to anyone who has interpreted the comments in this way”. It said commentator Jack Cafferty was offering a “strongly held” opinion of the Chinese government, not the people.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on Thursday that was not enough.
“Their statement not only did not make a sincere apology, but also took aim at the Chinese government, attempting to sow discord in the relationship between the Chinese people and the Chinese government,” Jiang said.
Cafferty had said the United States imported Chinese-made “junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food”, adding: “They’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.”
China’s Foreign Ministry lodged a formal complaint against the network late on Wednesday.
“Those in the field of journalism should abide by their morals. They don’t have the privilege to rail against or slander other people or other governments,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement.
The anger at CNN is the latest in a wave of criticism in China of Western news organizations.
The government and a chorus of bloggers accuse Western media groups of running distorted and biased reports of the recent unrest in Tibet.
But, wary of instability, the ruling Communist Party is also on guard against the complaints spiraling into popular protest.
On Thursday, four women were taken away by police for protesting outside CNN’s Beijing office, a witness said.
CNN reporters said they were not aware of the incident and an official at the propaganda department of Beijing’s police said he had no information.
A commentary in the People’s Daily, the voice of the Communist Party, said Cafferty’s remarks were indicative of a general bias in Western media covering Tibet, where days of marches widened into a citywide riot in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 14.
Media reports had termed violent attacks as peaceful protests and turned violent criminals into people whose human rights had been violated, coverage that “lays bare the discrimination and hostility behind their objective impartiality”.
“Sixty years after World War Two, in a global media program, to go so far as to nakedly slander a race and openly propagate racism makes people shocked and outraged,” it said.
China has blocked foreign reporters from visiting Tibet, with the exception of one small, guided visit, and security personnel have sealed off ethnic Tibetan areas of its western provinces, where anti-government demonstrations have also been held.
The Games open in Beijing on August 8, and thousands of foreign journalists are expected to cover the event.
Despite the vitriol against Western media, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang said reporters were welcome to visit Beijing.
“At the same time, we hope that during their reporting work they can uphold objectivity and fairness and through their actions show their professional journalistic ethics,” she said.
“The Chinese people cannot be insulted or bullied.”
Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by David Fogarty
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