Official suspended from post amid public furor over flight fight incident Published: 2012-9-3 16:44:00

    Editor's Note

Fang Daguo, an official in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province who had a dispute with a flight attendant last week, has been suspended from his position and put under investigation since Sunday, the official Sina Weibo account of the People’s Daily reported Monday.

    Latest News

Official suspended from position after dispute with attendant
Fang Daguo, an official in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province who had a dispute with a flight attendant last week, was suspended from his position and put under investigation Sunday, the People's Daily reported Monday on its official Sina Weibo account.

Media dispute 'reconciliation' between official, stewardess
The dispute between a flight attendant and a local government official that has sparked public ire took a new twist at the weekend as the Xinhua News Agency openly challenged the results of an investigation report offered up by the local government in Guangdong.
"Have you really conducted a comprehensive and objective investigation? Is what you found really what you published in the report?" Xinhua's Guangdong bureau asked on its Sina Weibo account on Sunday, a rare move by official media.

Assault case resolved
An investigation into an alleged assault of an air hostess by an official showed that the woman wasn't beaten, authorities in Guangdong Province said Friday.

Officer not a gentleman in flight fight
According to the attendant's Sina Weibo, the conflict flamed when she asked Fang and his wife to move their luggage, which was put in the middle of the aisle before takeoff.
Fang hit her on the shoulder with his bag and the couple began to violently insult at her after she explained the equipment could not be moved. When Fang noticed the attendant was taking pictures of the scene, he furiously attacked her and ripped her uniform.
The attendant's traumatic experience was reposted 30,000 times shortly after she posted it on her Weibo Wednesday night.

Official reactions vs Eyewitness accounts

Official reactions:

An anonymous officer at the department in Yuexiu
 It was impossible that Fang hit the flight attendant.
"Fang would never do that, by no means," he said, claiming that it was the flight attendant who wanted to take advantage of this case to get famous.

Publicity Department of Yuexiu district, Guangzhou
Fang Daguo did not strike the stewardess. However, the stewardess had tussled with Fang’s wife. Contrary to rumors on the internet, no military vehicle had ever posed a threat to the flight attendant.
Fang and his wife have apologized to the stewardess and both parties have reconciled.

Eyewitness account:

Princelione Doubane, a student from the Central African Republic who was on the same flight and witnessed the incident
The couple smelled like they had been drinking, and the man pinched the arm of the air attendant.
The man suddenly began shouting at the flight attendant, while the woman said that the stewardess “would not be able to earn money to buy food if it wasn’t for them.”
As a witness and passenger, Doubane blamed the whole incident on the couple. The whole conflict could have been avoided if they were more polite and the man did not hit the stewardess.
The woman pinched her own hand in order to mislead people into thinking the flight attendant had fought with her.

Five other anonymous witnesses
Five other witnesses were interviewed by media, but refused to provide their boarding passes or be identified.

Timeline of the incident
August 29
The flight attendant posted a message on Sina Weibo, saying that she was beaten by a passenger over carry-on luggage.
August 31
The Yuexiu official announced the investigation results, claiming Fang Daguo did not hit the flight attendant.
August 31
The flight attendant posted on her Weibo that the whole incident was properly dealt with and both parties had reconciled.
September 1
A witness told media Fang had hit the flight attendant, which once again sparked media attention.
September 2
Fang was suspended from post for investigation.

    View Points

Comment: All officials must work to change negative image - Global Times

In the era of new media, public watchdogs are everywhere. Each official exposed faces not only an outpouring of social criticism, but also the accumulating negative public mood due to previous cases. All Chinese officials should be cautious and disciplined. Any of their misbehavior may reinforce the public image of their entire corps, and a generally fragile image of Chinese officials could, in turn, become a negative asset for each member.

  • Li Xiaojin, a professor at the Civil Aviation University of China

Attendants and passengers are equals. If a passenger threatens flight safety, he or she should be thrown off the plane.

  • Zhang Qihuai, secretary-general of the Aviation Law Committee at the Beijing Lawyers Association

Even if passengers are not satisfied with the service, they can never resort to violence.They should lodge their complaints to the airlines and take legal measures. "I support the attendant's action in defending her rights. The flight attendant is doing a job, not a tool for passengers to vent their fury on," Zhang said, adding that the Civil Aviation Law should be strengthened to regulate passengers' behavior.
  • Zhang Xin, an associate professor specializing in public policy and management with the Renmin University of China

Zhang Xin said the doubts over the Yuexiu government report showed a lack of trust toward some local authorities due to their often self-contradictory information. "The authorities should be honest with the public and openly expose the reliable information required," said Zhang.

 Chinese Media Digest
 the beijing news logo The Beijing News editorial comments that governments willing to help officials out of scandals do more damage to their credibility than the bad behavior of an individual official.
Since the incident resulted in a work-related injury, the airline should open its own investigation, the article suggests, adding that the case should be resolved as citizens “expect an explanation that stand up to public scrutiny”, and Fang should not be exempt from legal recourse because of his official position.
 caixun logo Financial news site pointed out that the difficulty is not in making and accepting an apology, but rather winning trust from the public. As a result of the increasing rich-poor gap and other social issues, the wealthy and official classes have now become symbols of greed. And once people form their own impressions of government that image is difficult to change.
 xinhua logo The Xinhua News Agency appeals that the public should be informed of such investigations as a way to keep official power in check. By citing previous scandals made public such as the Red Cross donations, nothing can remain secret for long, Xinhua commented.
A truly transparent society should “let those who should talk be heard, and those authorities that should step aside do so,” Xinhua added.

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