MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong, whose popularity exploded thanks to fights with tai chi and wing chun practitioners, has again come to the defense of someone who has criticized the Chinese government for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February Xu shared news of the detainment of prominent whistleblower Chen Qiushi and advocated for his safety. Chen is a human rights lawyer and journalist who traveled to Wuhan at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak to independently report on the issues affecting front line workers’ abilities to stop the spread of the disease.
Now Xu is coming to the defense of Fang Fang, an author based in Wuhan Province. Throughout the pandemic Fang has been blogging about her experiences in Wuhan in her online blog Wuhan Diary. The blog, which is due to be published in English, is critical of the Chinese government’s handling of COVID-19.
According to South China Morning Post there has been a nationalist backlash to Fang’s writing. Those critical of Fang have accused her of fueling Western criticisms of China’s handling of the crisis.
Among those criticizing Fang is so-called tai chi master Lei Lei, who called Fang a “traitor”.
“She wrote a diary which has become a tool used by foreigners to attack China,” said Lei in a social media post. In that post Lei also called for martial artists to seek out Fang and “punish” her.
“Now, I am calling on the Wuhan martial arts community,” wrote Lei. “Fang Fang hasn’t left China yet, and she hasn’t left Wuhan, so you should denounce Fang Fang. Please use your fists for justice and punish this Chinese traitor.”
Xu took to social media to respond to Lei’s comments.
“Fang Fang is a petite woman of fifty-something; she’s not very strong,” said Xu. “I’ve read [Wuhan Diary]. It’s mostly full of praise and encouragement. There’s just a small amount of criticism and complaint, and that is all true and realistic.”
“It truly never occurred to me that so many people would start abusing her,” continued Xu. “Let’s face it, the martial arts world is full of stupid [expletive], but for you, Lei Lei, to call on Wuhan martial artists to go and attack a woman in her fifties for writing something ... have you no shame?”
Xu and Lei have a history.
In 2017, after beefing online about the validity of classic Chinese martial arts, the two men agreed to a street fight inside of a Chengdu gym. Xu won the fight by knocking Lei out in 6 seconds.
Footage of the fight went viral, starting Xu on a journey that would include multiple fights like this, a bitter feud with the Chinese martial arts establishment and censorship from the Chinese government.