China's Great Firewall a big inconvenience: shoe thrower

Fang Binxing, the architect of China's Internet censorship systems, was hit with a shoe yesterday

The man who threw a shoe at the architect of China's Internet censorship systems on Thursday, said he did so because the censorship has made his life inconvenient.

"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. He did not specify what software he is using.

Chinese microblogs have been abuzz with postings about Fang Binxing, often called "Father of China's Great Firewall", being hit with a shoe while speaking at Wuhan University. The assailant tweeted about the act on his Twitter account, adding that he also threw eggs at Fang, which missed.

No official information has been released about the incident, although some Chinese news reports on the shoe-throwing have made it online. The assailant, whose Twitter account is at @hanunyi, confirmed that he had committed the act in his e-mail.

The man, who didn't reveal his identity when asked, said he hadn't planned on throwing the shoe, believing that Fang would be speaking at a large event. But upon arriving, he found it to be a "small reception". His Twitter post mentioned only 30 people were in attendance.

Since throwing the shoe, the assailant has received praise on Chinese microblogs, with some users calling him a hero. Many others have said Fang deserved it.

The assailant said he was surprised by the response.

"I didn't think it would have such a big impact," he said. "Maybe a lot of people are the victim of a bad system."

China deploys an extensive Internet censorship system that blocks sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in an attempt to clamp down on politically sensitive content.

The system goes as far to prevent certain politically sensitive queries on Chinese search engines and microblogs, with Internet censors even deleting posts made on social networking sites in the country.

In the past months, the country's censorship has reached new levels, following an online protest call urging the Chinese people to hold a "Jasmine Revolution" against the government.

In March, Google reported the Chinese government was blocking Gmail access. Companies offering virtual private networks (VPNs), which allow users to view sites and content blocked by Chinese Internet censors, also reported that their services were facing access problems in the country.

Fang, the president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, has been at the receiving end of criticism from Chinese netizens before. In December, Fang set up a Chinese microblogging account operated by Sina. Users on the site, however, slammed Fang via posts on the microblog, for developing China's Internet censorship systems. Fang's postings, as well as the comments left behind, were removed from the account. The account continues, but is no longer searchable on the microblogging site.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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