Until this week, the social critic Sima Nan was best known for getting his head stuck in an escalator at Dulles Airport. That moment was particularly precious because Nan, a devoted neo-Maoist, had just posted another of his anti-America screeds on Sina Weibo before flying to DC.
But China’s most famous wumao is now back in the news for a more impressive reason: as an impassioned defender of free speech.
The arrest of another journalist in China is normally cause for concern: as the news is shared across social networks, tweets of sympathy accumulate, human rights groups and lawyers protest, and diplomats may even issue statements of public concern.
But the detention of economics anchor Rui Chenggang (pictured), reportedly “dragged” from his offices by investigators just hours before his show was due to go live, has prompted almost the opposite – the overwhelming response, as the NY Times’s Ed Wong noted, has been one of schadenfreude (xingzai lehuo, “feel happy about someone’s disaster”).
Look at Xi Jinping eating lunch. When the story broke yesterday that the president of China was spotted in Beijing ordering steamed buns at a local restaurant called Qing-Feng, I noted that we'd be seeing more pictures, since if you can't take pictures of the president of China on your camera phone, you might as well never take another camera phone picture again. Well, here's a video, which surfaced on Youku about nine hours ago. It is wonderful in the following ways:
This certainly looks like Xi Jinping in a crowded Beijing restaurant. Weibo user @四海微传播 wrote at 1:20 pm today: "People, I'm not seeing this wrong, am I? Uncle Xi came to Qingfeng to eat steamed buns (baozi)!" The same user messaged again at 1:34 pm: "Uncle Xi queued to buy steamed buns, even paid his own bill, carried his tray, chose his own buns." The message was forwarded by none other than the official Xinhua Sina Weibo account at 1:38 pm.
As reported last month, former security chief Zhou Yongkang, now retired, has been the target of high-level corruption probes since at least late August. "How far and high is [Xi Jinping] willing to go to clean up China’s political elite?" the New York Times's Chris Buckley asked in a September 25 article.
Now we kind of know. The South China Morning Post reported today, citing unnamed sources, that Xi Jinping is overseeing a "special unit" to investigate Zhou, "bypassing the Communist Party's internal disciplinary apparatus."