MEDIA WATCH – Did Reuters Get Lost in Translation Over Official Quote? 1

Media Watch Hong Kong

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Scroll to the bottom for responses from Reuters & the China Liaison Office.

Reuters apparently scored quite a scoop yesterday when it quoted an official offering up what amounts to a death threat against a local pro-democracy figure…

Reuters. Quote via Reuters.

Quote via Reuters. Quote via Reuters. Quote via Reuters.

According to the article, two anonymous sources confirmed that Zhang Xiaoming, the head of Hong Kong’s China Liaison Office, made the comment to pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung when asked whether a democrat could ever become Chief Executive.

The original quote was seemingly derived from a Sing Tao news piece, dated August 20th, 2014.


Chinese speakers, Sinophilles and journalists on Reddit and Twitter debated whether the translation was accurate…

The phrase is not meant to be read literally in Chinese. To ‘sit peacefully’ implies ‘exist’ and could mean ‘be alive’ – meaning that Reuters editors may not be entirely incorrect.

Journalism educator Yuen Chan agreed that the original quote would best be translated as: “That the HK Alliance can exist and be active… reflects CCP’s tolerance”

The Reuters piece was re-syndicated in the Daily Mail, Chicago Tribune, Straits Times and dozens of other outlets.

via Reddit

Via Reddit

24-hours later, there had been no clarification from Reuters. However, the translation had come ‘full-circle’ and appeared in Apple Daily…

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12/9 10pm – Reuters responded to Hong Wrong with the following clarification:

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Reuters also said the original Chinese read as follows: “你们还可以活下去,已经是国家的包容.”

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12/9 – 11:30pm – The China Liaison Office published a statement saying that Zhang’s words were distorted in translation.

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One thought on “MEDIA WATCH – Did Reuters Get Lost in Translation Over Official Quote?

  • tojanhorse

    It is obviously a threat, though not literally a death threat. “The fact that you are sitting here shows how tolerant we are” could mean, if we wanted to, we force you to leave Hong Kong…but given the CPCs history and recent warnings of bloodshed if democrats don’t back down, it was reasonable to interpret as a death threat.