A British Labour Member of Parliament (MP) is upset about a 3-minute Chinese propaganda clip playing on a giant screen in New York City's Times Square that, she says, takes her quotes about the South China Sea out of context.
Interspersed with expansive scenes of blue sea and sky are short comments by people apparently voicing support for China’s sovereignty in the disputed maritime region. Catherine West, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the Labour Party’s Shadow Cabinet, is one of several international lawmakers, analysts and diplomats who granted interviews on the topic while visiting Beijing for the fifth China-Europe High-level Political Parties Forum in May.
The embedded text narrative of the clip says China was “The first to discover, name and explore the islands in the South China Sea," and, "[founding leaders] gradually established China’s undisputed sovereignty and rights over the islands.” After slamming a Hague-based court's ruling that China’s claims are “incompatible” with international law, the video says China “supports and advocates a dual-track approach" of resolving disputes via state-to-state dialogues.
The video then cuts to West saying, “I think talks are crucial. That is why we have to be careful. Yes, we need to resolve it very locally and have a grown-up approach to dialogue.”
According to West’s press secretary Matthew Whitty, the legislator was perplexed and concerned about assertions made in the clip, as it takes her words out of context.
“Although I was of course happy to give an interview on my concerns regarding the militarization of the South China Sea and the need to work together to secure a peaceful resolution, I am not happy for the footage to be used in a way that suggests that I support the current approach adopted by China towards these islands," she said in an email to online news magazine Quartz. "I would hope my parliamentary record has demonstrated that I have consistently raised concern over Chinese island-building and military deployment in the South China Sea, and indeed I have urged the UK government to do all it can to ensure international law is upheld and that the region is stabilized for all parties concerned.”
The propaganda video runs 120 times a day from July 23 to August 3. With its annual traffic of hundreds of millions of people, New York’s Times Square is one of the busiest tourist spots in the world.
Among other people quoted in the video are Dr. Wu Shicun, president of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies; John Ross, former director of Economic and Business Policy of London; and Masood Khalid, Pakistan's Ambassador to China.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin Service.