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Watch: A reporter’s eye-roll goes viral during China’s parliament. Until the censors moved in.

BEIJING — The question was a softball, the sort of long-winded but unchallenging interrogation we’ve come to expect at the endless news conferences during the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress. The reaction of the reporter, dressed in blue, summed up how many journalists, and viewers, were surely feeling, not only about the question, but about the whole two-week-long set-piece event in general.

A frown, a disdainful look across to see who was speaking, a beautifully dramatic eye-roll and turn of the head.

Here’s the whole clip.

On Tuesday, the eye-roll went viral on China’s Internet, with close-up clips widely shared on Wechat, China’s most popular messaging service. By late afternoon, the name of the woman in blue, identified as Liang Xiangyi of Yicai Media, a financial news service, was trending as one of the most searched items on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. That is, until searches were blocked by censors, according to freeweibo.com, a website that monitors censored items on Chinese social media.

The woman in red was identified as Zhang Huijun, a reporter for American Multimedia Television (AMTV), a Chinese-language television station based in California whose website boasts of its partnership with China’s state-owned China Central Television (CCTV). After introducing herself, she asked, at length, about the Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure lending and investment project championed by President Xi Jinping.

The operative part of her question (there is a very lengthy preface): “Investment in countries along the route of Belt and Road Initiative has increased,” she said. “So how will the overseas assets of state-owned enterprises be effectively supervised to prevent the loss of capital from state-owned enterprises? What kind of supervision have we have brought out.”

The answer is not recorded on the clip.

Netizens suggested that the Liang’s disdain was prompted by the way some reporters appear to want to use the televised event as a way to grab the spotlight with long-winded questions.

The annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) is one of Communist China’s great set-piece events, two weeks of even-more-fawning-than-usual coverage in state media of the wondrous achievements of Xi and the party. Occasionally, a foreign reporter gets away with a challenging question at a news conference or gaggle with an official, but those moments are rare. For the big events, the topics and who will ask them, are largely agreed on in advance.

In order to ensure a smooth, embarrassment-free session, security in Beijing is stepped up dramatically during NPC meeting, a crackdown that usually generates some bizarre stories in its own right. This year, so dominant is the paranoia that some restaurants and bars in a popular student neighborhood were told by police that they could only admit a maximum of 10 foreigners at any one time, the South China Morning Post reported.

“Until March 22, every Friday night and Saturday, as requested by local authorities, we can only allow a maximum of 10 foreigners in our store at a time,” a widely circulated notice at one pizzeria said. “We appreciate your understanding during these challenging times.”

The clip also generated curiosity about AMTV, one of a growing number of foreign news organizations with links to Chinese state media.

On its website, AMTV says it has an agreement to transmit CCTV news programs under an AMTV logo, and also acquires and distributes motion pictures to television stations and other media globally. It says its primary financiers are “Franklin International Group and American Berkshire International Group,” it has a press pass issued by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and has been a corporate member of American International Chamber of Commerce since 2004.

Liu Yang contributed to this report.

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