Minitrue: Don’t Hype Story on Leiyang’s Angry Poet

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

Regarding the smashing of computers by chairperson of the Leiyang, Hunan branch of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles after his was criticized online, all websites refrain from recommending or prominently displaying related news. (July 15, 2015) [Chinese]

Chairman of the Leiyang chapter of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles Xiong Aichun’s angry reaction to online critique of his poetry recently made the local official the subject of national Internet criticism. After poems he posted to the Leiyang Community (耒阳社区) forum on July 1 received less than favorable review, Xiong marched into the physical office of the portal on July 4 and proceeded to have a violent meltdown. Ecns.cn reports:

According to the [Beijing Morning Post] report, on the morning of July 4, Xiong arrived at the office of lysq.com, demanding to see the head of the community website within five minutes or he would smash computers in the office.

When the countdown ended and the leader failed to appear, Xiong smashed one of the computers to the ground.

[…] He “was not familiar with the Internet and thought it was the website that had defamed his poems,” explained the executive, “and so he came to challenge us.”

During a quarrel with staff members at the company, Xiong said “It is I who smashed the computer, and so what? I can leave you a note!” And so he wrote, “Xiong Aichun smashed a computer of the community. Xiong Aichung, July 3, 2015.”

Xiong asked for 100,000 yuan in spiritual compensation from the company, and with a deduction of 2000 yuan for fixing the computer he demanded the company pay him 98,000 yuan in total. The two sides did not reach an agreement on the matter. [Source]

According to initial reports, witnesses commented on Xiong’s eccentric behavior, and his colleagues told reporters that he had a history of mental illness.

CDT’s Sam Wade translates two of the poems posted by Xiong:

In Praise of the International Healthcare Consumer Guide

There’s a guide for international consumers,
A crystal-clear little pamphlet.
Healthcare consumption is clearly outlined
And I write this poem in its praise.
All the experts served them well,
So all the customers rejoice.
After happily washing our feet today,
Tomorrow we stride up the mountain.

In Praise of Leiyang (4)

Leiyang: the foremost Daoist paradise on earth!
And the Sea of Bamboo is its heart.
Amid such blessings, should one cherish joy?
Only with appreciation can joy multiply!
Shall we bandy words about the affairs of the literary world?
Picking such nits is very bad!
Might I persuade you to douse the fire of anger in your liver?
No! It is only normal to channel this vital energy! [Chinese]

Coverage from the Global Times notes that Xiong asked bystanders to remind him how to write the character for “smash” as he was penning his note. China Daily translates netizen comments on Xiong’s reaction and what the incident says about official supervision:

The incident has exposed the huge gap between Xiong’s literary image and the person he really is, because he could not even write the word “smash” properly in the note he left. But what has irritated the public most is his refusal to accept criticism, which authors, and artists should be prepared for once they enter the world of arts. Xiong’s reaction is a natural outcome of the flattery and praise he has become used to in his daily life, and reveals the long-standing administrative malpractice such as the lack of internal supervision and an atmosphere full of deceit.

Gmw.cn, July 15

Whether Xiong is suffering from some mental illness as the official response claimed is not the real issue. Instead, what is important is how an official is selected and supervised and whether or not Xiong is qualified to be the chairman of the local literature and arts society. The selection and appointment system of officials should be urgently reformed so that they are chosen on the basis of their moral integrity and professional competence. And a top-down supervision mechanism should be established.

Hinews.cn, July 15 [Source]

At Quartz, Zheping Huang translates more netizen commentary on the incident, and situates Xiong into the Chinese tradition of official poetic moonlighting:

Chinese netizens have raised questions on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo. “First, how can he rise to a literature federation chairman position with such a low literacy?” asked one (link in Chinese). “Second, why isn’t he subjected to the law after stirring up such big trouble?”

Among Communist Party officials, writing and sharing poetry is not uncommon. Ma Kai, now China’s vice premier, created a poem series (link in Chinese) on fighting floods, storms, and earthquakes.

[…] In 2007, China’s then-premier Wen Jiaobao published a poem in the People’s Daily newspaper entitled Look Up at the Starlit Sky, encouraging college students to be “people who care about the destiny of the world and the country.”

That poem, unlike Xiong’s, was actually good. [Source]

Huang also notes that the Leiyang Community forum front page (lysq.com) currently displays a notice saying it is under maintanence due to “soaring traffic and a large number of malicious DDOS attacks.”

For more on the role of poetry in modern Chinese society, see a CDT interview with Heather Inwood, author of “Verse Going Viral: China’s New Media Scenes.”