Last week Lee Kai-fu, founder of Innovation Works and one of China’s most influential social critics, took to his personal weibo to announce that he is fighting lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells.
“Although lymph cancer doesn’t sound optimistic and it makes family and friends concerned, this is just life: it comes as a surprise, but I should face it calmly. Pain is part of life, I will face the ups and downs of life with a more positive attitude,” Lee wrote on his microblog, which has more than 51 million followers.
Lee is known as a supporter of technology innovation and for offering advice to young people. WiC profiled him as one of eight key figures in China in our special 200th issue.
After news about his illness spread, there was an outpouring of sympathy from netizens around the country. His weibo comments were reposted more than 150,000 times and garnered more than 220,000 further mentions.
One netizen wrote: “Teacher Kai-fu, you are my idol and the spiritual mentor for every college student like myself. After hearing about your sickness, I’m very emotional about God’s injustice. Teacher Kai-fu, please take care.”
“He has been working hard to make this world a better place, and has done his best to empower China’s young men. I sincerely wish Kai-fu will recover and go on with his life soon,” wrote popular blogger Han Han on his own weibo on Friday.
Lee, meanwhile, expressed his gratitude: “I am touched after reading the warm comments you left for me,” he wrote last Friday.
News about Lee’s illness comes at a time when China’s propaganda authorities are cracking down on “big V” weibo celebrities.
Recently Xue Manzi, another popular personality, was arrested for soliciting sexual services from women in Beijing (see WiC206). Many believe that Xue is being used as an example to warn off other outspoken microbloggers.
This week the government took a harder line on social media. Authorities say that users who post comments considered to be slanderous could face prison if the postings attract wide attention. Netizens will face charges of defamation and a possible three-year prison term if they publish slanderous rumours that attract at least 5,000 hits or that are then reposted at least 500 times, according to the judicial interpretation.
Some say the new ruling is just another measure to limit discussion online.
Nevertheless, the official reason being given is that “people have been hurt and the reaction in society has been strong, demanding with one voice serious punishment by the law for criminal activities like using the internet to spread rumours and defame people,” Supreme People’s Procuratorate spokesman Sun Jungong told reporters.
Sun also told Xinhua that the new interpretation isn’t intended to discourage netizens from exposing official wrongdoing. “Even if some details of the allegations or what has been exposed aren’t true, as long as [internet users] aren’t intentionally fabricating information to slander others… They won’t be prosecuted on charges of defamation,” says the court spokesman.
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