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Brawls erupt in China as Biden, players make 'goodwill' visits

August 19, 2011|By Amy Hubbard
(Reuters/China Daily )

Who knew things would get so rough during Vice President Joe Biden's trip to China? First there was a near-brawl. Then there was a real brawl. On the same day.

The first set-to Thursday pitted American reporters against Chinese officials and marred -- for the reporters, anyway -- an appearance by Biden in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

The second clash occurred when a "goodwill" exhibition basketball game between the Hoyas of Georgetown University and China's Bayi Rockets turned into a melee, with fists flying and chairs and bottles sailing through the air.

Video of the fight (below) made international news.

The kerfuffle between reporters and government officials occurred just minutes into Biden's remarks as he told China's vice president, Xi Jingpingt, of his "fond hope" that their personal relationship would grow and flourish.

Chinese officials apparently thought that was sufficient and pointed reporters to the exits. When pointing didn't work, they began pushing. As reporters endeavored to stand their ground and Biden's words of diplomacy kept flowing in the background, push came to shove. The Chinese locked their arms and pushed forward, and that was that.

That evening, ill will seemed to bubble up as the Georgetown Hoyas took on the Bayi Rockets, a pro team. The exhibition in Beijing was intended to showcase sunny U.S.-Chinese relations, but things turned ugly fairly quickly, according to an American ex-pat living in Beijing who was not at the game but learned some details.

"It was a really tense game from the beginning because the Chinese team came out playing very aggressively, and the Hoyas weren't prepared," the ex-pat said.

In the fourth quarter, a Georgetown player objected to a hard foul by a Bayi player and the dispute escalated, with benches emptying and fights erupting across the court. Fans even jumped in. An unidentified Chinese man in a white polo shirt and khaki shorts was captured in photos and video stomping a Georgetown player on the floor.

On Thursday, Chinese officials denied the incident had even occurred, according to Politics Now writer Michael Memoli, the White House pool reporter for Biden's trip. But by Friday, Beijing was trying to put a period -- a friendly one -- on the whole incident.

"The sun has come out again, as it were," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told reporters covering Biden's visit.

With a rematch between the Hoyas and the Rockets set for Sunday, and Biden's appearances continuing, U.S. and Chinese officials must be hoping the forecast remains sunny.

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