World

China denounces shoe-thrower

A day after a dissident in Britain threw a shoe at Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, China denounced the protester's actions, but made no mention of the offending footwear.

State media runs full footage of incident after slim initial coverage

A security guard picks up a shoe that was thrown toward Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the University of Cambridge on Monday. ((Darren Staples/Associated Press))

A day after a dissident in Britain threw a shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, China denounced the protester's actions, but made no mention of the offending footwear.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jian Yu made no reference to the shoe and termed the incident a "disruption." She said the protest was "despicable" during a press conference, but that it "can in no way stem the tide of the growing friendly relations and co-operation between China and Britain."

The incident occurred as Wen gave a speech at the University of Cambridge. A protester sitting in the back of an auditorium threw the shoe after standing and shouting at the premier.

"How can this university prostitute itself with this dictator here?" he exclaimed. "How can you listen to the lies he's telling without saying anything?" The shoe missed its mark, landing about a metre away from Wen.

The state-run Xinhua news agency, meanwhile, ran a story reporting China's "strong dissatisfaction" over the incident. Like the Foreign Ministry, it did not provide any specifics of the protest, saying instead that Wen was received warmly at the university, but that "someone tried to disrupt the order during the speech."

Britain had apologized for the incident, Xinhua reported.

State-run television eventually airs footage

But the state-run CCTV showed full footage of the incident on Tuesday. In the broadcast, the camera is fixed on Wen, but pans to the protester as he is removed from the auditorium.

China tightly controls its media and often suppresses news seen as unflattering to the Communist party and state leaders. It also monitors and censors the internet, although the sheer volume of online content — the country has 298 million web users — makes it far harder to paint over bad news.

Media observers say the sharing of information online may be prompting official media to cover news it would have formerly hidden.

CCTV initially did not give any details of the incident. In the live broadcast of the speech on CCTV's site, the camera remained fixed on Wen, not showing the shoe or the protester, although his remarks and the sound of the shoe hitting the stage could be heard.

Wen paused, glanced sideways as the shoe hit the stage, and then continued his speech.

"Teachers and students, this kind of dirty trick cannot stop the friendship between the Chinese and the British people," Wen said, followed by applause.

Wen was at the end of a three-day visit to Britain when he gave the speech at Cambridge. He flew to Beijing later Tuesday.

The incident comes two months after an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at then U.S. president George W. Bush at the beginning of a news conference during his last visit to Iraq.

With files from the Associated Press