Li Chengpeng, an investigative journalist, writer, and social critic with more than 6.65 million followers on Sina Weibo, is accustomed to publicity and controversy. But physical attacks? Surely someone as brash and influential as he knows that opinions present an occupational hazard, but it’s nonetheless disheartening to see someone — anyone — physically assaulted for his ideas and beliefs.
This appears to have happened to Li on Sunday. Via SCMP’s John Kennedy:
Writer Li Chengpeng returned to his hometown Chengdu Saturday to sign copies of his new book, “The Whole World Knows“, a collection of essays, only to be told beforehand by domestic security police that he would not be allowed to address the crowd, speak with fans, or follow up with a Q&A session. In response, Li appeared wearing a mouth mask and a t-shirt on which he had written, “I love you all.”
Yesterday, Li returned to Beijing for another book signing, this time greeted by a very long line of readers, a punch in the head, and a threat from one radical leftist in the form of a kitchen knife.
The “kitchen knife,” in the video above, appears to be wrapped in a red cloth. “This is yours,” the leftist says, calmly, as he pulls it out of his bag and places it on the table. As he’s being pushed back, at least one person can be heard repeatedly saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay,” trying to defuse the situation before it escalates. Someone else throws a punch, and we hear, “Here’s 50 cents for you!” (a reference to China’s “50-cent army,” slang for people who are paid to post pro-government comments on articles and discussion boards).
We’re unclear as to whether the punch in the head happened before or after this, but NTDTV has a video of that aftermath.
Here are pictures of Li’s book launch in Chengdu:
— Yanr (@Liangyanr) January 12, 2013
And in Beijing:
From Weibo, the insanely long line at Li Chengpeng’s book signing event twitter.com/Yuxin_Gao/stat…
— Helen Gao (@Yuxin_Gao) January 13, 2013
The outspoken Li, you’ll remember, gave a powerful speech at Peking University in November in which he memorably said (as translated by Liz Carter), “China is currently in the process of losing its ability to speak.”
More recently, as it relates to the Southern Weekly incident, he told The Asahi Shimbun, “We don’t need high-rise buildings, the status of the world’s second-largest economy, or an aircraft carrier. What China needs now is a newspaper that tells the truth.”
We’ll be hearing more from him, I’m sure.