China’s ‘great firewall’ creator pelted with shoes
Posted by Author on May 20, 2011
Chinese police are seeking a man who said he threw eggs and shoes at the architect of China’s “great firewall”, the world’s most sophisticated and extensive online censorship system.
The claims were cheered by many internet users, in a reflection of growing anger among them about increasingly stringent controls. Admirers showered the anonymous young man with flippant promises of everything from Nike trainers to replace his lost footwear, to iPads, sex and jobs.
The office of Fang Binxing – who is known as the father of the great firewall – denied the attack had happened, while Wuhan University in Hubei province, where the incident reportedly happened, told the Guardian it was not aware of it. No photographs have surfaced of the event.
But Associated Press said police were sent to the university to investigate a shoe-throwing incident targeting Fang on Thursday, citing an officer at the Luojiashan public security bureau.
A Hong Kong activist had posted a message noting that Fang, the president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, was giving a speech at Wuhan and urging students to “prepare”.
The Twitter user who claimed to have pelted him, who posts under the pseudonym @hanunyi, wrote: “The egg missed the target. The first shoe hit the target. The second shoe was blocked by a man and a woman.
“I didn’t think this little thing would get such a big response,” he added several hours later, following the online outpouring of glee.
@hanunyi, who said he was not a student at the university, was still tweeting on Friday. Responding to one comment warning he might be detained, he noted: “So far, not yet. Just woke up. Thank you.”
Other students appeared to have planned similar protests, but backed out. One Twitter user wrote: “We noticed that our professor and our graduate supervisor were there and immediately lost courage.”
While many of China’s estimated 477 million internet users appear largely indifferent to the firewall because they use almost solely domestic sites and services, a growing number of young people are frustrated by curbs that not only prevent them accessing foreign news and social media sites, but increasingly make it hard or even impossible to use apparently uncontroversial sites, such as the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Earlier this year Fang closed a microblog within days of opening it after thousands of Chinese internet users left comments, almost all of them deriding him. They attacked him as “a running dog for the government” and “the enemy of netizens”.
He later told the Global Times newspaper: “I regard the dirty abuse as a sacrifice for my country.”
Fang told the state-run newspaper that internet controls were not tough enough, a comment that presaged increasingly tight controls. He complained in particular of the use of virtual private networks to evade censorship technology – saying he had six VPNs at home so that he could test the strength of the firewall.
Shortly afterwards, addressing graduating students in a speech that focused on patriotism and western hegemony, he warned: “Political chaos in north Africa and the Middle East has enticed the great expectations of anti-China forces … More than ever, democracy activists abroad are taking advantage of the internet. They are inciting netizens to take up planned, step-by-step action and bring about political chaos in China, accomplishing their goal through the work of others.
“Now the question is, Who is it that wants turmoil in China after all? Who is it that wants China to sink into the mire of chaos?”
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