The last time Liu Peiwen walked a thousand miles by foot was when he wanted to convince his girlfriend to marry him. This year, the Henan-born 30 year-old pulled off the “long march” again for a different reason – to arouse national awareness for the Diaoyu Islands in China.
On August 17, this year – two days after a group of Pro-China activists landed on the disputed territory – Liu set off from Wuhan, Hubei, passing through the provinces of Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangzhou before reaching Hong Kong on Sunday after 106 days of walking. Liu cited Hong Kong’s social activism, especially where the Diaoyu disputes are concerned, as an inspiration for his journey, “What you guys did inspired a lot of mainland Chinese, myself included.”
When Liu began his patriotic journey three months ago, he had hoped his feet would carry him to as far as the Diaoyu Islands. But not long after he started walking, Liu realised how slim the chances were for him to actually make it there.
“Judging by the current Sino-Japanese tensions, going there might not be a prudent move,” says Liu.
Despite frequent live updates on Weibo, Liu’s journey has received much less media coverage compared to the previous year where he walked from Henan to Guangzhou to prelude a marriage proposal to his girlfriend. His proposal story was widely reported by Chinese local media and online, where he was dubbed “the man who’s willing to walk to the end of the world for love”.
Although his girlfriend eventually turned down his proposal, Liu still found the experience worthwhile, “Walking became like a habit for me. My last journey toughened me up for long distance journeys like this one. By walking all this way, I want to encourage Chinese people to take action.”
During his hundred-day journey, Liu was occasionally joined by enthusiastic supporters, some of whom even offered to pay for his meals. However, his broadcasts online were also met with disapproving comments on Weibo, where netizens dismissed his patriotic voyage as a self-promoting act to revive a failed acting career. As a former actor and brand promoter, Liu said he understood people’s scepticism, but added that the journey had not been an easy one to undertake.
“I left home, gave up my job, walked with blisters on my feet and paid all my own expenses. I made so many personal sacrifices, and the journey didn’t even make me more famous.”
Hong Kong activist ‘The Bull’ Tsang Kin-shing welcomes Liu’s initiative, as it shows the “flourishing” of Diaoyu-focused activism in different parts of China. Tsang said he would accompany Liu to hand his protest letter to the Consulate-General of Japan later this week, marking the end of his three-month journey.