An arrest warrant has been issued by United Kingdom authorities against a reporter working for China’s state-run broadcaster, after she failed to show up for a court hearing, according to BBC.
The suspect is Kong Linlin, 49, a London-based reporter for CCTV, who failed to show up at the Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.
Kong was charged with common assault after an altercation broke out at a September 2018 conference on human rights and democracy in Hong Kong held in Birmingham by the UK’s Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and the UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch.
The panel discussed the erosion of freedoms since Hong Kong’s sovereignty was returned to China in 1997.
Kong began heckling a speaker, calling his comments “anti-China” rhetoric. Her outburst prompted volunteers and attendees to escort her out of the venue.
When Kong refused to leave, she appeared in filmed camera footage to have slapped a student volunteer and Conservative Party member Enoch Lieu. She was eventually taken away by local police and charged.
She was set to appear in Birmingham court in November 2018 over the assault charge. But the case was discontinued on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service, the UK’s public prosecutor, according to a November 2018 article by The Guardian.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said at the time that there was not enough evidence “to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” against Kong.
The case later was reinstated, which prompted Birmingham magistrates to issue a summons to Kong’s address in King’s Cross, London. It is not known what prompted the reopening of Kong’s case, when the summons was issued, or when she was scheduled to appear in court.
Lieu welcomed the decision by the UK prosecuting agency to reopen the case against Kong, in an April 19 interview with non-profit online newspaper Hong Kong Free Press.
“I believe this sent a clear message that no one is above the law,” Lieu said. “Failure to attend the hearing shows that she has no respect for the rule of law, a principle that is fundamental to our British way of life.”
Following Kong’s public outburst, the Chinese embassy in London demanded an apology from the conference organizers.
Benedict Rogers, deputy chairman of the human-rights commission and founder of Hong Kong Watch, had said in response that it should be the Chinese embassy and CCTV apologizing.
“Indeed, they should apologize for disrupting an event and for her assaulting someone,” Rogers told South China Morning Post. “The Chinese regime should not be allowed to behave in party conferences in Britain in the way it behaves at home.”
Kong’s case brought to light a bigger issue, which is how the Chinese Communist Party views its media as “agents of the Chinese state,” said UK-based writer Zhang Pu, in an October 2018 interview with Radio Free Asia.
“Any journalist sent overseas by the Chinese Communist Party has certain [political] duties,” Zhang said.
In March, Reporters Without Borders, published a report on China’s media control tactics, a system in which “journalists are nothing more than state propaganda auxiliaries.”
U.S. authorities have already taken actions to bring Chinese state-run media under closer scrutiny.
In February, the international arm of CCTV, known as China Global Television Network, registered as a foreign agent, according to The Wall Street Journal, after the U.S. Department of Justice ordered it to do so in September 2018.