By Benjamin Overton
Though Deng Yujiao, the 21-year-old waitress accused of killing a government official, may have been saved by the flurry of internet postings in her support, the same netizen fervor may be making it dangerous for reporters to get the full story.
Deng has become a sort of internet folk heroine after stabbing a government official who was allegedly trying to rape her. The dead official, head of a trade promotion department in Deng’s town, is said to have demanded “special services” from Deng, thrown money in her face and pushed her to the sofa several times before she stabbed him with a fruit knife.
The case won the sympathy of many netizens, who railed against the actions of morally corrupt officials. Their anger was further stoked when local authorities toned down reports of the officials’ activities. Presumably in a typically heavy-handed way to clamp a lid on the matter, reporters are now allegedly being attacked when trying to contact Deng.
According to Danwei, a recent twitter posting by Yang Xiao, a Southern People journalist, claims that one of his colleagues was attacked and kidnapped by thugs of unknown identity. The post, translated below, has now eclipsed even Swine Flu as the topic of the day on Twitter and its clones:
I am Yang Xiao, a Southern People journalist based in Beijing. My colleague Wei Yi was at Deng Yujiao’s grandmother’s home (at Yesanguanmulongya). When he was interviewing her, men of unknown identity beat him up and took him away (New Century Weekly journalist Kong Pu was present).
Additional reports are coming in quickly and seem to point towards a government cover-up. EastSouthNorthWest has compiled several reports which seem to back up Yang Xiao’s Twitter post. It translated a quickly “harmonized” report on the KDNet forums:
Southern People Weekly magazine reporter Wei Yi went yesterday morning to interview people at the home of the maternal grandmother of Deng Yujiao, which is located at number 8, Bridage 10, Mulongya village, Yesanguan town) and was assaulted by unidentified persons. He has been taken away by these people and held captive. At the time, Beijing News reporter Kong Pu was present. The last call from Wei Yi came at 1:27pm. Thereafter, his co-workers kept calling him but his phone was hung up immediately. The phone has now been turned off.
After Beijing News reporter Kong Pu got separated from Wei Yi, a group of women came up to assault her while screaming: “So may be the guys won’t beat up a girl, but we would!”
Another reporter said: The Yesanguan police station was called, but they refused to dispatch any officers. Then they actually disconnected the phone.
While the original post from Yang Xiao has disappeared, Twitter appears to be moving faster than government censors can follow. The tweet has been reposted countless times and is perhaps proving that Twitter, at least for now, is immune to government censorship.
The Deng Yujiao case is one of the newest examples of public opinion provoking government action in China. Asthe Associated Press notes, the case of Deng Yujiao is very similar to the case of Yang Jia, a Shanghai man who aroused public sympathy last year after confessing that he killed six police officers as revenge for alleged torture he had suffered months earlier.