Li Xue Jiang, the Canadian bureau chief for the Chinese People's Daily, had traveled with Harper throughout a six-day trip to rural northern Quebec, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., said. At the final event on the schedule for the trip, Harper was touring a nickel mine in Raglan, Quebec, touting a $750,000 government investment into wind power at the site, Postmedia News said. Due to the Harper administration's tight rules on which reporters are allowed to ask questions, Li had not gotten the opportunity to address the leader at any point on the trip.
Routinely, Harper's press staff dictates the number of questions the prime minister will take in a given press conference. It is then up to the assembled media to decide on the topics and which reporters are best suited to broach them.
Reporters have complained bitterly about the practice but Harper's press staff has refused to change it.
On this particular trip, press officers had allowed four questions for the traveling national media and one for a member of the local media. Because there was no local media on hand during a tour of a Quebec mine Friday, the reporters on hand agreed to let Li ask the fifth question.
Waiting in line to ask his question, Li was seen arguing with Harper Press Secretary Julie Vaux and could be overheard repeating "unfair, unfair." Vaux could be seen touching Li, who then shoved her once, continued arguing and then shoved her again, the report said. Vaux contended because there was no local media, there would only be four questions and Li wouldn't have the chance to ask his question.
During the altercation Harper's security detail from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police hauled Li out of line and took him to the back of the venue. He was only briefly detained before being allowed to return to the press pool, though he was still not allowed to address Harper.
"The Prime Minister's Office shouldn't deprive my right. It's not democratic," Li said later.
Harper's communications director, Andrew MacDougall, said the administration would take up the matter with the official press gallery in Ottawa, to which Li belongs.
"Agree or disagree with how events are run, there was no excuse for the Chinese state reporter to get physical with our staff," he wrote. "We will be raising the matter with the [parliamentary] press gallery and Mr. Li should apologize immediately."
Li refused to apologize and contended it was Vaux who owed him an apology.
"Why should I apologize?" Li asked. "They should apologize to me for being unfair and depriving me of my right to ask a question."