A prominent writer known to be a liberal social critic is considering legal action against two leftists who attacked him during a book signing in Beijing on Sunday, the writer's attorney said in a microblog post yesterday.
The incident highlighted renewed tension between leftists and liberals in the country, particularly after the Southern Weekly newspaper's censorship row saw both camps hotly debate the issue and clash during ensuing protests.
Li Chengpeng, a former journalist, was punched in the head during an afternoon signing of his new book for readers at the Zhongguancun Bookstore in Haidian district, and another man was filmed throwing a packaged kitchen knife at Li.
The man who punched Li claimed to have a strong aversion to the content of Li's new book, The Whole World Knows. The assailant was taken away by Beijing police, according to a post on the public security bureau's microblog that night.
The new book is a collection of essays that include sensitive topics such as the shoddy quality of school buildings that collapsed and killed thousands of students during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the alleged cover-up of the 2011 Wenzhou train crash.
The second man was seen, in a video clip posted online, attempting to put the knife on the table in front of Li before throwing the package at the writer while being forcibly escorted away.
Li threw back 50 fen - equal to half a yuan (HK$0.61) - as the amount is often used to refer to people who are paid to make pro-government comments online.
Beijing police did not name the alleged knife-thrower on their microblog, but said the case was under investigation.
A day earlier, in Chengdu , Sichuan province, Li's first stop on the book signing tour, he was ordered by public security agents not to address the crowd or answer any questions. Instead, he wore a black mask and a shirt that said "I love you all" in Chinese.
Li, 44, who is based in Chengdu, wrote on his microblog early on Saturday morning that he was also told that his guests were not allowed to address the crowd.
The guests included 81-year-old writer and poet Liu Shahe, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Professor Yu Jianrong and writer Ran Yunfei who was detained in 2011 for "subversion of state power" and later released. The host's microphone was taken away.
"The tense atmosphere among the leftists will continue," political commentator Zhang Lifan said. "Leftists are now extremely anxious, as they don't know which path the new leadership will take."