Journalist’s ‘disrespectful’ question over subtle press conference detail

A journalist has been criticised for a question to China's foreign ministry spokesperson in the wake of a fatal plane crash in which all 132 people on board are feared dead.

The reporter for international news agency Reuters asked Wang Wenbin if he was wearing a black tie for any particular reason, just hours after a "shocked" Xi Jinping had ordered "swift action" to identify the cause of the crash in China's Guangxi province.

A solemn-faced Mr Wang offered a blunt response to the question.

A Reuters reporter pressed Wang Wenbin on the reasoning behind the tie. Source: FMPRC/ Weibo
A Reuters reporter pressed Wang Wenbin on the reasoning behind the tie. Source: FMPRC/ Weibo

"I don’t see the need to go into that," he replied at the Tuesday press conference.

The question regarding Mr Wang's mark of respect to the victims of the crash was slammed as video of the exchange surfaced online and later shared by state-run media.

"Is the journalist stupid or provocative? No respect whatsoever," one person wrote on Twitter.

Question goes viral on Chinese social media

A hashtag for the incident has since gone viral on Chinese social media site Weibo, with over 130 million discussions.

Fellow foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, an infamous figure in Australia for his provocative social media presence, wrote on the platform: "Everyone on Earth knows what it's for".

"Why rub salt in the wounds?" one Weibo user asked.

"This is vicious to ask," another person said.

Many said Mr Wang did well to compose himself and not berate the reporter.

He had earlier appeared tearful when expressing his sorrow over the fatal crash.

Part of a wing lies in a levelled area of the hillside
There are believed to be no survivors from the plane crash. Source: Xinhua

China's foreign ministry press conferences have at times become tense affairs with Western media pressing the department's three spokespeople on a raft of issues China has faced criticism for, including its human rights record.

The spokespeople have increasingly been accused of using 'wolf warrior diplomacy', where they refuse to accept criticism of China and often respond by delivering scathing responses.

Investigators into the crash of Flight MU5735, which was travelling to Guangzhou from Kunming, still have "no clear assessment of what caused the crash", Zhu Tao, director of aviation safety at the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), told reporters.

Unverified CCTV of the crash shows the plane nosediving almost vertically into a mountainside near the city of Wuzhou.

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