MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong has faced a lot of hardships lately. The Beijing based trainer and amateur fighter — nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ — recently had his social credit level demoted, meaning he could no longer rent or own property, or travel on high speed transit. Xu has also faced online censorship, with content he and other people post about his exploits vanishing from Chinese government controlled social media platforms.
Xu’s troubles stem from his crusade to expose ‘fakery’ in China’s kung fu community. This crusade involves Xu fighting traditional martial artists across the country in style vs. style match-ups. Each of these fights has ended with Xu overpowering and often knocking out the hapless tai chi and wing chun masters he comes up against.
His most recent fight, which took place in Xinjiang (ground-zero of China’s persecution against the Uyghur people), saw Xu fighting in clown make-up and under a pseudonym that meant ‘Winter Melon’. The face-paint and name (a jab at Xu’s weight) were stipulations put forth by the fight’s promoters under pressure from authorities (likely including the powerful Chinese Wushu Association).
The Chinese Wushu Association were instrumental in having Xu’s credit rating slashed. They championed a lawsuit against Xu that claimed the MMA fighter had slandered a tai chi grandmaster (who claims mythical powers).
Though Xu has let loose on social media plenty of times to bemoan his treatment and talk about his fears for his future in China, the viral fighter has not shied away from expressing his views on the biggest hot button issue currently facing his homeland; the Hong Kong protests.
Days ago Xu posted on social media questioning whether state-run media in China was running a ‘smear campaign’ against protestors in Hong Kong (per South China Morning Post). This came after news agency Xinhua labeled protestors as ‘rioters’ who had brought ‘black terror’ to the city.
Protests in Hong Kong started at the end of March in opposition to a proposal that would allow authorities in the city to arrest and extradite people who were wanted in Taiwan and mainland China. Protesters say that legislation would erode the “one country, two systems” principle. That constitutional principle outlines that, although mainland China, Macau, and Hong Kong are all part of the same county, that Hong Kong and Macau should still have their own economic and administrative systems.
Protestors fear that if Hong Kong’s administration was absorbed into mainland China there would be wide-spread persecution of activists and dissidents who live in the island city.
One of the reasons that protests have continued, and swelled, over the past months is the the heavy-handed tactics used by Hong Kong’s security forces.
In his words of support Xu expressed that he believed Hongkongers and Chinese people to be one in the same and that he thought it was important that the “one country, two systems” principle remained in effect.
Since making his online comments, Xu has revealed that he was visited by Chinese authorities in Beijing (SCMP) who questioned him on his opinions regarding the protests. In an interview with SCMP’s Inkstone publication Xu said he was worried about deviating from mainland China’s views on Hong Kong, but added that he wished to exercise his constitutional right to speak freely.
In addition to being visited by officials, Xu has also had his Weibo account wiped. This is the eighth time Xu has had his Weibo account deleted. He told followers on twitter that, “the ninth time is comming!”
Xu’s latest Weibo censoring (which Xu believes happens every time he amasses more than 10,000 followers) came after he posted a picture of himself with human rights lawyer Chen Qiushi. Chen traveled to Hong Kong a week ago to observe the protests, but he was intercepted by authorities. Chen was feared missing, but a few days ago he confirmed to SCMP that he is safe.