The computer scientist Fang Binxing is the architect behind China's Great Firewall, which blocks thousands of foreign websites and filters keyword searches for sensitive topics like Tibetan independence or the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement. But on Thursday, during a lecture at Wuhan University in Hubei province, Fang couldn't prevent one man from hurling an egg and shoes at him, in a brazen act of defiance that has thrown Chinese netizens into a frenzy.
The Twitter user @Hanunyi, sporting a picture of detained artist Ai Weiwei as his icon, has identified himself as the egg-and-shoe thrower, posted a live account of the event, and uploaded a photo of a hand holding an egg (see above). "The egg missed the target. The first shoe hit the target. The second shoe was blocked by a man and a woman," he tweeted (the sequence of events, which flying objects actually hit Fang, and where exactly those objects hit the computer scientist have sparked gleeful confusion on Twitter). Two others Twitter users, @zfangzhou and @yinhm, say they bought the eggs spontaneously when they heard Fang would be on campus but "lost courage" when they encountered faculty members, only to meet the courageous @Hanunyi who went through with the plan. The AP is reporting that Chinese police are now investigating the incident and searching for the student, who fled the scene and whose identity is still a mystery.
Online activists, meanwhile, are celebrating the egg-and-shoe assault and Internet freedom in general at the delicately named Twitter hashtags #fuckfbx and #fuckgfw (references to Fang and the firewall), and on the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo. There are reports that Fang's name and even the accounts of anyone tweeting about the incident have been blocked today, though others claim Fang's name was already censored. Fang's Wikipedia page, of course, has already been updated, as ChinaGeeks founder Charles Custer points out. At China's Netease portal, users offered Hanunyi and the other students involved in the incident prizes such as a luxury flat in Shanghai, Nike shoes, and "10 VPNs" (Virtual Proxy Network software used to circumvent the Great Firewall), according to The Telegraph's Peter Foster.
The AP notes that this isn't the first time online activists have targeted Fang. Back in December, Fang launched a Sina Weibo account only to shutter it hours later after it was flooded by thousands of scathing comments.