Though the details of the affair are a bit unclear at the moment, it appears that Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei was involved in some sort of altercation between rival political bloggers in a Beijing park, according to The Telegraph, which reports that some are referring to the showdown as the “Chaoyang ‘Rumble in the Jungle.’”
In place of heavyweights George Foreman and Muhammed Ali in the bout were Wu Danhong, a political science and law professor accused of being paid to support government rhetoric, and a liberal journalist named Zhou Yan. The Financial Times reports that Mr. Zhou challenged Mr. Wu to a debate in the park after the two had battled in prose online.
A video has been released of the confrontation in the capital city’s Chaoyang Park, and it appears to show the two men, each buffeted by a handful of supporters, forcefully exchanging words. Then there is some pushing. And then, out of nowhere, Ai Weiwei appears! The FT really sets a dramatic scene of Mr. Ai’s arrival:
…a bearded, hulk of a man – like an internet troll made flesh and blood [emphasis added] – steps forward and roughly pulls Mr. Wu’s ear, before retreating. The bearded giant in question is none other than Ai Weiwei, the dissident artist who spends much of his time online. Mr. Ai’s sudden appearance has the look of some bizarre video game.
Mr. Ai makes his appearance at about 12:50 in the video, if you’re watching at home. Truth be told, it’s rather hard to discern him actually pulling Mr. Wu’s ear, but he admits it occurred in an interview with The Telegraph:
“I only pulled his ear saying, ‘Who is this?’ for less than a second because his ear was quite slippery,” added the 55-year-old. “I’m not the kind of person to beat people up.”
Mr. Wu claims that he was attacked. He told The Telegraph, “A dozen people laid their hands on me: I also got kicked in the back by Zhou, Ai Weiwei and some [other] guys. I never expected that such a thing would happen.” Though the professor does go down to the ground at one point, it’s difficult to tell what’s happening. Mr. Ai said that he played no role in any attack, and that the professor tripped over himself.
Naturally the Chinese government has condemned the fracas. An editorial in the state-controlled Global Times stated: “Resolving political disputes should be done in a civilized manner.” Like, presumably, holding your opponent in detention, without charges, for 81 days.