SCMP Saturday, November 18, 2000

Jiang's media frowns turn to smiles


A smiling President Jiang Zemin went out of his way to answer questions from the Hong Kong media yesterday, in an apparent attempt to mend fences after his angry outburst three weeks ago.
In a break with normal practice, an aide to the President tipped off Hong Kong journalists covering the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum in Brunei that Mr Jiang would take questions during a break in an official outing.
After touring the Royal Museum, and in sharp contrast to his demeanour during last month's tirade, a relaxed and smiling Mr Jiang walked over to reporters and spoke on issues ranging from Sino-US relations to Taiwan.
"I'm afraid I have said too much," he said after taking a few questions. 'You're satisfied today, aren't you?"
On October 27, Mr Jiang rounded on reporters in Beijing, telling them he was angry and accusing them of asking "too simple and sometimes naive" questions.
He lost his temper after being asked whether it was an "imperial order" from Beijing that Tung Chee-hwa would serve another term.
Mr Jiang accused the media of making a fuss of the Chief Executive's possible bid, saying they needed to improve their standards.
Jabbing his finger, he said the only thing good about Hong Kong reporters was that they could run faster than their counterparts in the West.
The comments raised concern among some observers that Mr Jiang was attempting to intimidate the media. Pro-Beijing figures said they supported his remarks.