Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CNN crew detained over ObaMao shirt

It was perhaps only to be expected, especially during a state visit by the American president that China should get just a little paranoid. Shortly after Liu Mingjie knocked up some t-shirts depicting Obama in Red Guard attire media as well as tourists were clamoring for the now hot items. Underneath the picture was the infamous Chinese phrase from the years of the Cultural revolution, "Serve the People" and on the back a play on words, Oba Mao. 

Authorities were less amused however, and apparently decreed the shirts were not to be sold. Most retailers appear to have complied and the much sought after item was unavailable in many popular tourist locations last weekend. However, Emily Chang, CNN's Asia correspondent, did manage to acquire one of the elusive items of clothing and took it with her to Shanghai with the intention of using it in a subsequent report.

However not everything went according to plan. As she did he bit to camera, passing security spotted the t-shirt and moved in."They scrambled towards us and tried to pry the shirt out of my hands," Ms Chang wrote on her CNN blog. "I didn't give in.  There was a bit of yelling and quite a scuffle."

Before long a crowd gathered and police arrived. "We ended up being detained for two hours in the cold, maze of a market," Ms Chang said, "They wanted our press cards, our passports, but most of all, they wanted the shirt," she said.  "Finally, they let us go. Phew!" Emily Chang refused to surrender the offending shirt and joked that a number of jealous White House and CNN colleagues had tried to "bribe" her for it.

Meanwhile the overzealous behaviour by security and police have only served to show the Chinese state as paranoid and insecure. It proves, as if it needed proving, that free speech is swiftly stamped on and that any claims made by Chinese politicians that human rights are moving forward are but blatant lies. The attempt to thwart the dissemination of news has in fact increased the prominence of the story and made the paranoid Chinese state look ridiculous.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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