The architect of China’s controversial censorship ‘firewall’ Fang Binxing has reportedly been hit by a shoe hurled at him by an irate protester against the country’s stringent Internet access system.
The exact nature of events is difficult to verify as it has not been officially reported, but a protester using the name ‘Hanunyi’ claimed on Twitter that he had thrown two shoes and an egg at Professor Binxing as he was giving a lecture at Wuhan University in Hubei province.
The assailant later tweeted in Chinese about the attack, witnessed by only 30 people. “I didn't think this little thing would get such a big response,” Hanunyi wrote in a post.
"I spend money to buy all this official software, but I can't use it [because of the censorship]. This has made me really unhappy," the man said in an email message without specifying the program in question.
For anyone in China able to visit his Twitter page, Hanunyi’s protest will be seen as political – the account image of Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, currently being held by the Chinese state without charge.
This is the second protest against Binxing in recent months following an incident in December 2010 in which a blog he published was defaced with large numbers of insulting comments, forcing him to take the article down.
In the West, such an event would be an everyday occurrence for anyone in political office. In a controlled society such as China, however, even the smallest public dissent carries huge symbolic weight.
Chinese computer users determined to access the Internet without restriction face an uphill struggle to beat the system designed by Binxing and built, ironically, by some of the US’s most prominent tech companies. In March, Gmail users in the country were hit by disruption while last year a Chinese root server was reportedly shut down as a last-resort technique to stop a leak in the censorship firewall.