An experienced Chinese state TV journalist has been convicted of slapping a Conservative party conference delegate during a fringe meeting.
Linlin Kong, 49, a reporter with the Chinese broadcaster CCTV, denied assaulting Enoch Lieu, claiming the Tory delegate had manhandled her first.
But a judge found Kong, a journalist for 26 years and CCTV’s chief UK political correspondent, guilty of assault after a trial, describing it as an attack “in the heat of the moment”.
Delivering his verdict at Birmingham magistrates court on Friday, the district judge Shamim Qureshi told the reporter: “I conclude the defendant responded in two ways. The first was by slapping Mr Lieu, and the second was by later pushing his arm away. The first clearly amounts to a criminal assault, but the second does not.”
He said the slap had such force that it was heard eight seats away by another delegate, who turned to see Kong’s hand raised up to her own ear as she was following through on the strike.
The judge said: “In my view, it was in the heat of the moment that the defendant lost her cool professionalism as a journalist and instead became an impassioned heckler.”
He sentenced Kong to a 12-month conditional discharge, and ordered her to pay costs, a victim surcharge and £100 compensation, totalling £2,115.
Her barrister, Timothy Raggatt QC, told the judge she would appeal against both the conviction and sentence.
Giving evidence at trial, the victim had told the court the reporter slapped him and also later struck his elbow, after she accused conference panellists of trying to “separate” China.
Lieu, a Newcastle-under-Lyme Conservative member, was attacked during the Hong Kong fringe event meeting at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre on 30 September last year.
He denied laying a hand on Kong, instead giving evidence that he asked her “in a neutral tone” if she could “please leave”.
The court heard that Kong, of King’s Cross, north London, stood up and shouted: “You guys are trying to separate China” to members of the UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch and the Conservative human rights committee chairwoman, Fiona Bruce, before the incident.
Lieu asked Kong to leave the hall after her outburst, in which she also allegedly labelled panel members “puppets”.
The judge said Lieu’s evidence had been credible, although there had been inconsistencies in his account, including that he was slapped not once but twice.
Lieu later said he was slapped once, and then struck on the elbow.
Qureshi said a suggestion by Kong’s defence that only authorised security should have dealt with the situation was “not valid”.
He also singled out the police for having “signally failed to keep proper control” of a video clip, which showed part of the incident immediately after the slap.