Did CCTV conspire to smear Apple?

In a segment aired last Friday night during an official televised gala to commemorate World Consumer Rights Day, China Central Television sharply criticized Apple, alleging that it offered substandard services to Chinese consumers.

But criticism quickly turned back on CCTV after it appeared that the network had organized a campaign against Apple on social media, timed to strike immediately after the segment aired. The controversy now centers on a post made just before 8:30 p.m. from the Sina Weibo account of Taiwanese actor Peter Ho. The message, in which Ho claimed he felt “hurt” by Apple’s actions in China, ended with a line suggesting Ho had been enlisted in a coordinated smear campaign: “Post around 8:20 p.m.,” it said.

There is heated discussion on Weibo today about Peter Ho’s post. It seems that the post indeed was sent, but Ho has claimed in a subsequent official statement that he did not send it. This is a curious claim, leaving a number of highly unlikely scenarios — such as someone maliciously accessing his account to send the message (with what possible motive?). [Here is another post including an image of the post from Ho's account.]

By 8:45 p.m. on Friday the tide on social media had turned against CCTV. The possibility of a conspiracy to smear Apple was being discussed at least at hotly as Apple’s alleged unkindness to Chinese consumers.

At 8:55 p.m. Chinese writer Li Chengpeng posted a short essay to his blog criticizing CCTV for its actions. A partial translation of his piece follows:

It’s not that you can’t do some things on and off the air to go along with the fight against fakes. But you cannot use public power to make targeted strikes against those who aren’t your major advertisers. Of course you can criticise Apple, but you cannot let all of these domestically manufactured fraudulent goods off the hook when you could so easily investigate them, then turn a harsh and uncompromising eye on a mobile brand that leads the world in overall quality — even making it out to be something of great concern to the people, a form of national discrimination . . . The thing is, you’ve always done things this way. You act all the time like you don’t give a damn about your own face, and then you place the condom of state power over the instrument of your own private profit.

Those enterprises are bad, but what you’re doing is disgusting. A massive network like yours, with massive channel resources in your grasp and high-level contacts, but your creativity is such that you can only be compared to [propaganda] megaphone shouting over the countryside . . . .

You turn your eyes from knife attacks on our own children, but focus your attention on tragedies at schools overseas; you don’t criticize the way our own congresses have gathered like so many artificial limbs for 60-odd years, but always mock the way shoes have been thrown again in a parliament in some other country. You’ve never questioned why officials in our country don’t open up about their assets (great, so on this issue we must thank foreign reporters for asking this question at press conferences), but you take great joy in reporting about some government official overseas who got caught using public funds to buy a bottle of wine. Yes, there are certainly many untoward things happening outside China — poisonous foods, corrupt officials, poverty. But no matter how many of these dirty stories there are overseas, what the hell do these have to do with me? I don’t have family there. I criticize ugly things in China because these do harm to my own family (Oh, I see, so perhaps you criticize things overseas so much because you own relatives have already . . . ?). You are China’s national television network, so you should be criticizing more things happening right beside you. That’s how you contribute to your own country. Is it so hard for you to understand this simple concept?

Just look at the rest of the world. It seems that only our country uses public funds to host things like the March 15 gala (3.15晚会) [for World Consumer Rights Day]. The more evening galas we host here [on Chinese television], the more severe problems are, until in the end evening galas themselves become the problem. We don’t go and fix the actual problems, we just hold evening [television] galas, and more evening banquets. For our own pleasure, we plan evening banquets. In order to support the elderly, we hold Cheung Yeung Festival gala. In order to save ourselves from moral decline, we hold Study Lei Feng gala. In order to save ourselves from poor-quality products, of course we must hold a March 15 gala [for consumer rights].

One after another the dead pigs float down the Yangtze River, too many to count. And I’m in no mood to count them either. If you don’t care at all about this problem, I think I’ll add another to the count. It is a dead pig of morals that never speaks up.

What I’ve learned most from this latest episode [concerning Apple] is this: CCTV, you no longer have any right to teach me morals.

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