Jan 16 Update:
Shenzhen Book-signing Attracts 2,000+,
Comes Off with a Few Nasty Scuffles
I went to the event last night at what is arguably Shenzhen’s nicest bookstore (中心书城) next to the Civic Center (市民中心). The long line outside—you had to buy the book, then wait to get it autographed—was what we call in Chinese a “dragon queue.”
The South China Morning Post put the count at more than 2,000, and I’d say there were at least that many determined supporters keen to get an autographed copy of the controversial essays. Outside, everyone was very polite, very civil during my wait. I was given an A4-size sheet of paper that read “我们是公民：我们都要睁大眼” (We are Citizens: We Should Keep Our Eyes Wide Open). Author Li Chengpeng is often referred to as “Big Eyes.” Perhaps 50 amused fellow fans took snapshots of me brandishing the slogan, while one reminded me that there “must surely be plenty of plainclothes police about.”
After one-and-a-half hours, word came through that they had run out of copies of The Whole World Knows, and a new shipment was reportedly on the way. So I reluctantly gave up my place in line and went inside for a look. There must have been 400-500 people seated on tiered steps above the make-shift stage where the author was signing his book, one-by-one. I was only inside for 5 minutes, but I did indeed see two fellows suddenly go at it, with a lot of pushing and shoving ending in one of them being whisked away by 3 men who looked very professional. Plainclothes police? Hired bodyguards? Can’t say for sure.
I do regret being unwilling to wait it out to get my own copy. The word spread in the queue that the order has come down from the authorities to “review” the book, i.e., to send it back to the censors for another look. If that happens, you can be pretty sure it won’t be published again in its present form.
Here’s an excerpt from the SCMP’s Jan 16, 2013 report (Another Signing) about the event:
Meanwhile [while the author signed books inside], dozens of protesters, most in their 40s or 50s and some wearing Mao Zedong badges, gathered outside the building.
One of the protesters said he was outraged by some of Li’s recent comments, such as labelling those who took to the streets in anti-Japanese demonstrations in Shenzhen “brain damaged”.
“Li is a typical traitor who does nothing more than distort history and mislead the public, particularly the young,” he said.
Although dozens of policemen, most in plain clothes, were at the scene, the two groups of people clashed at least three times between 6pm and 7pm, with some suffering minor injuries.
At one stage a middle-aged, bespectacled man shouted “Li Chengpeng a traitor!”
The man slapped one of Li’s supporters in the face when he tried to stop him from hurling abuse at Li, who was protected by six bodyguards.
Jan 15 Entry
Author Li Chengpeng’s book-signing tour for The Whole World Knows (全世界人民都知道 ) has attracted some bizarre—not to mention dangerous—behavior according to the South China Morning Post’s Author Attacked by Leftists:
Li Chengpeng [李承鹏], a former journalist, was punched in the head during an afternoon signing of his new book for readers at the Zhongguancun Bookstore in [Beijing’s] Haidian district, and another man was filmed throwing a packaged kitchen knife at Li.
The man who punched Li claimed to have a strong aversion to the content of Li’s new book, The Whole World Knows. The assailant was taken away by Beijing police, according to a post on the public security bureau’s microblog that night.
The new book is a collection of essays that include sensitive topics such as the shoddy quality of school buildings that collapsed and killed thousands of students during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the alleged cover-up of the 2011 Wenzhou train crash.
The second man was seen, in a video clip posted online, attempting to put the knife on the table in front of Li before throwing the package at the writer while being forcibly escorted away.
But there are two very basic—and evidently sensitive—facts about the events that have not been widely reported in mainstream China media. For example, 李承鹏遭遇掌掴 in Guangzhou’s Yangcheng Evening News (羊城晚报) and 李承鹏签名售书遭掌掴 in New Beijing Newspaper (新京报), whose reports were carried on one of China’s leading web sites with generally good coverage of things cultural, Chinanews.com (中新网文化). Both articles fail to inform readers of the book title or its controversial topics.
Oh, yes and one other thing that the SCMP mentions: on his blog, Li Pengcheng says that at an earlier stop in Chengdu, he “was ordered by public security agents not to address the crowd or answer any questions.”
Some road tour! Apparently unfazed, the author is scheduled for another book-signing event in Shenzhen today (Jan 15).