This story has certainly ignited a lot of joy on twitter:
The man known as the father of the so-called “Great Firewall of China” was pelted with eggs and shoes by a students protesting against China’s draconian online censorship regime, online reports in China claimed.
The attack on Fang Binxing – a figure popularly reviled by China’s young tech-savvy elite – caused instant uproar and delight on the Chinese internet after the students posted an account of their protest on micro-blogging platforms.
The unusually daring protest comes as China’s leaders move to tighten internet controls following the wave of Jasmine revolutions in the Middle East, and indicated the depths of frustration felt by some young Chinese towards the censorship.
Four students apparently sought out Mr Fang as he gave a talk at the Computer Sciences Department of Wuhan University in central China, pre-arming themselves with eggs purchased for the occasion at a nearby market, according to their own account on Twitter.
“I definitely hit Fang. As for whether there are pictures will depends on the two students,” read a post by one of the students, @hanunyi, “I came by myself. It was not difficult to hit with my shoes but a little bit harder to target him really successfully.” Two others, @zfangzhou and @yinhm, said the protest has been organised spontaneously after hearing word that Mr Fang was on the campus.
Could it have happened to a nicer guy? To the guy who earlier this week said foreign websites were blocked because they create extra costs for Chinese ISPs? The man behind the Great Firewall who, rather humporously, boasts that he uses no fewer than six VPNs?
So what does it all mean? I’m hesitant to say it indicates a wave of popular outrage over the GFW. It sounds like a bunch of computer science students took it on themselves, spontaneously, to show how they feel about the man most responsible for cutting China off from a sizable chunk of the Internet and making a lot of Web surfing there an exercise in torture. Computer Science students have a very special ax to grind when it comes to the GFW.
I wish it were a signal of a groundswell of outrage, and I hope it leads to more expressions of frustration/anger. But for now, I see it as simply generating a microburst of comments on twitter and weibo and Chinese web portals, many of which will probably soon vanish. For what it’s worth, all the Chinese people I know hate the GFW. None of them would have pelted Fang with shoes and eggs. Internet censorship is a favorite obsession with the chattering classes, but is usually taken in stride by the teeming masses.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.