A vocal Guangdong whistle-blower suffered serious injuries from brutal assaults on Monday in an act of possible retaliation for uncovering official corruption and other social issues, Chinese media reported.
Li Jianxin, 47, a noted Huiyang whistle-blower better known by his online alias Huiyang O Bo, was a victim of a knife and sulphuric acid attack, Southern Metropolis Daily said.
The assault happened while he was driving with his six-year-old son, when another vehicle bumped them from behind.
When Li stepped out of vehicle to check what had happened, three men jumped out from the other car and attacked him. They first poured sulphuric acid on his back, then slashed both his wrists and right eye before running from the scene.
Li did not dare run away from the attack because his son was still in the car, he later said, recalling the frightening moment. His son, however, was left untouched in the incident.
Li was later taken to hospital and sent to the operating room for hours.
Doctors said Li had completely lost sight in his right eye and was uncertain whether his hand would fully recover after two fingers were severed. His burn wound from the acid attack extended from his back to almost his left ear.
A police spokesman on Monday afternoon said regional police bureaus had placed the case on high priority but remained cautious about the motivation behind it.
“Right now we can neither conclude what caused the incident, nor exclude what did not cause it,” he said.
Nonetheless, Li’s wife was convinced the assault was an act of retaliation for his frequent disclosures online about corruption and pollution.
“I have urged him not to mind others’ businesses, but he told me to leave him alone,” she told the newspaper.
Li has been active on various Huizhou online forums since June 2012, when he quit his job as a truck driver to report on social issues in the city, said his wife.
He gathered information and published them online. Topics included official corruption, environmental pollution and other public abuse. However, comments on his posts showed netizens had mixed impressions about Li.
Many hailed him as a brave figure speaking out for public interest against officials who collude with merchants and organised crime, but others grew suspicious of his motivation. Some even accused him of blackmail.
Earlier this year, in another possible act of revenge, a brick was hurled through a window into the room of Li’s daughter. No one was hurt.
In a post referring to the incident, Li wrote: “Such intimidation can never scare me away. Better to shoot me in the head.”
Li also posted more than a hundred of his findings on his Sina Weibo microblog, although they have attracted little attention. But internet traffic on this microblog was robust on Tuesday as internet users left messages of support and well-wishes for a fast recovery.