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Chinese student says he hurled shoe at Web regulator, sparks Web buzz

By Helena Hong and Jaime FlorCruz, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The student says he also tossed an egg at the man behind "The Great Firewall of China"
  • The firewall blocks access to sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
  • The student gains sudden popularity -- and thousands of Twitter followers
  • Chinese citizens have long decried government barriers to free Web use
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Beijing (CNN) -- A Chinese student has sparked an Internet frenzy with claims that he tossed an egg and shoes at the creator of a firewall that blocks access to social media in the nation.

The student, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said he targeted Fang Binxing on Thursday during the Web regulator's visit to Wuhan University in Hubei Province.

Fang helped create what has been dubbed the "Great Firewall of China," which blocks access to sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

CNN could not independently verify the student's claims.

Local police officials declined to comment on the alleged incident. Chinese state media did not have any reports on it and no videos were posted online.

Yet the student's claims sparked virtual applause among fans of Internet freedom in China.

Scores of netizens offered him prizes such as free meals and free virtual private networks. The student also gained popularity among users of the microblogging site Twitter, gaining thousands of followers in one day.

The student told CNN in a phone interview that he was surprised by his sudden popularity.

"Everyone is just so excited about what I did. They must be dissatisfied, too. Anyone else under such circumstance will do the same thing," he said. "I feel that I do not have a platform where we can equally debate with Fang Binxing. Therefore, I can only resort to this somehow extreme way to express my discontent."

He said he first tossed an egg at the regulator, which missed. He claimed he then took off his shoes and tossed one, which hit the regulator on the chest. An attempt to throw the second shoe failed when it was intercepted by university officials, he said.

"I'm not happy about what he does. His work made me spend unnecessary money to get access to the website that is supposed to be free," the student told CNN, referring to Fang. "He makes my online surfing very inconvenient."

Fang is the president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. He has come under fire among disgruntled Chinese netizens since he helped create the firewall.

Chinese Internet users have decried government barriers put up to stop free access, but some have found ways to bypass the firewall using virtual private networks.

The number of Internet users in China, already the world's largest online population, hit 477 million in March, according to officials.

CNN's Tian Shao contributed to this report

 
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