China Spurns Apology, Keeps Pressure on CNN

Tibetan exiles in New Delhi stage a relay alongside the official Olympic torch relay to urge independence for their homeland.
Tibetan exiles in New Delhi stage a relay alongside the official Olympic torch relay to urge independence for their homeland. (By Gautam Singh -- Associated Press)
By Jill Drew
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 18, 2008

BEIJING, April 17 -- Ratcheting up a campaign against what it calls Western media bias, China demanded a "sincere apology" from CNN for comments made by an on-air personality who called the Chinese "goons and thugs" last week.

CNN had offered an apology Tuesday, but the Chinese rejected it as inadequate. CNN's Beijing bureau chief was summoned to a meeting at the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday night, and on Thursday a ministry spokeswoman said the global news network needed to do more to "take back the vile remarks."

China's fight with CNN is part of a broader effort to challenge those who question its response to last month's protests in Tibet or criticize the Olympic torch relay, which traveled Thursday through New Delhi under heavy guard on its way ultimately to Beijing.

Although Western news media are a particular target, political figures have also faced criticism. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader whom China accuses of masterminding the Tibetan protests, an editorial in the official People's Daily said that if a poll were taken in China, Pelosi would probably be voted "the most disgusting figure."

CNN has been under fire since late March, when its Web site,, ran a photo of the March 14 rioting in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, which was cropped in a way that cut out several Tibetan protesters pelting Chinese trucks with rocks. CNN issued a statement defending the photo, saying it was clear what was happening.

In the latest controversy, commentator Jack Cafferty, appearing April 9 on CNN's "The Situation Room," called Chinese exports "junk with the lead paint on them" and lamented the large U.S. trade deficit with China. "I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years," Cafferty said.

After an outcry, CNN apologized to anyone who took offense. It issued a statement that drew a distinction between its news reporting, which it defended as "objective and balanced," and its commentators, "who provide robust opinions that generate debate." Cafferty himself clarified that he was referring to the Chinese government, not the Chinese people.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said those moves did not go far enough.

"Their statement not only did not make a sincere apology, but also took aim at the Chinese government, attempting to sow dissension between the Chinese government and the people," Jiang said Thursday. "We cannot accept it."

CNN Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz declined to comment on the new demand or his meeting Wednesday night with Liu Jianchao, director general of the Foreign Ministry information department. A CNN spokesman also declined to comment.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company