In a potentially stunning turn of events, it is alleged a meeting between two rival and high-profile microbloggers on Sina Weibo at Chaoyang Park in Beijing turned violent on Friday. Rumors are swirling that one of them, accompanied by 30 friends, beat the other over their online spat.
Wu Danhong, 33, an assistant professor at China University of Political Science and Law, and Zhou Yan, a female reporter from Sichuan Television Station, agreed Thursday to meet at 1 pm Friday at the park to "settle" a spat on Weibo.
Wu made a controversial post on Weibo on Tuesday saying that a molybdenum copper plant project in Shifang, Sichuan Province, later cancelled after protests, was not harmful to the environment, as molybdenum and copper are necessary elements for the human body.
Wu's opinion was lambasted online including by Zhou Yan, who was supported by certain self-claimed democracy activists.
Wu has been nicknamed by netizens as "the chief representative of the 50 cent party," a pejorative unofficial term for Internet commentators hired by the government to post comments that favor government policies and who are reportedly paid 5 mao (50 cents) a post.
"Both Ai Weiwei and Yao Bo, a well-known columnist and affairs commentator came," Wu told the Global Times on Friday. "About 30 or 40 people were with Zhou Yan while I was alone."
Wu then claimed that "Zhou Yan, Ai Weiwei and Yao Bo beat me, and I suffered many cuts and bruises."
The Global Times reached Ai Weiwei by phone but the artist refused to comment. A Weibo post by Zhou Yan saying that she threw two eggs at Wu's face and kicked him was quickly deleted.
One netizen, Meng Haoran from Shanghai, confirmed some elements of the story. He told the Global Times that he witnessed an altercation between Zhou and Wu which turned violent, including Zhou pelting Wu with eggs.
However, he did not see either Ai or Yao take part in the fracas, adding that somebody was protecting Wu and that the whole incident lasted 10 minutes until the police arrived.
"I do not speak for the government and I just voice out my opinions. I do not have a personal grudge towards Zhou and I had never met her before," Wu said.
Wu is considering taking legal action but this is not the first such incident..
Last October, a purported public settling of a spat with Yao Bo never happened as both sides accused the other of fleeing the scene.