A journalist’s name has become the most censored term on Chinese social media after her dramatic reaction to a softball question posed by a fellow reporter at a choreographed press conference.
Liang Xiangyi, from the financial outlet Yicai, was unable to hide her disdain at what was likely a vetted query at China’s National People’s Congress.
In a moment captured on video, she begins to scoff as the reporter asks an official a lengthy question.
Ms Liang, dressed in blue, then turns towards the questioner and looks her up and down in revulsion, before performing a spectacular eye-roll.
Captured by China’s national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), the moment spread like wildfire across Chinese social media.
The question was presented by Zhang Huijun, of the US-based American Multimedia Television, which has links with China’s state-owned CCTV.
“This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Reform and Opening-up Policy, and our country is going to further extend its openness to foreign countries,” Ms Huijun says.
Congress press conferences are known for their highly-controlled environments, in which news outlets with links to the Chinese government are called on to ask officials flattering questions, which are often agreed on in advance.
The eye-roll, a rare break from the artifice of such press conferences, has been immortalised on social media with GIFs and memes, with many users expressing support for Ms Liang.
“Nicely done! You gave an eye-roll on our behalf!” one Weibo user said.
Three men also recreated the moment in a parody video shared widely online.
As support for Ms Liang spread, her name became the most-censored term on the Chinese social media site Weibo.
According to China Digital Times, “censorship instructions” were swiftly issued to the media by government authorities, which read: “Urgent notice: all media personnel are prohibited from discussing the Two Sessions blue-clothed reporter incident on social media. Anything already posted must be deleted. Without exception, websites must not hype the episode.”
The South China Morning Post reported Ms Liang’s media accreditation to cover the Congress has been revoked following the incident.
Earlier this month, the Chinese government launched a wide-ranging online censorship crackdown, which includes a ban on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, to suppress what it views as threats to national security.
It came just days after the Chinese Communist Party announced presidential term limits would be removed, allowing Xi Jinping to stay in office as President indefinitely.
China’s parliament passed a constitutional amendment abolishing the two-term limit this week, a move the government has said is aimed at protecting the authority of the party with Mr Xi at the centre.