Fang Binxing implied on his microblog that he is no longer controlling China's internet censorship system. (Internet photo)
A report late last month by Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun said that Fang Binxing, the president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications who is known as the Father of China's Great Firewall, had been detained for investigation in connection with the disgraced politician Bo Xilai. Fang has refuted the report but at the same time implied that he is no longer in charge of China's internet censorship system and online rumors say Yan Wangjia, CEO of Beijing Venustech, has replaced Fang as the top controller of the internet in the country.
Yomiuri Shimbun said on April 26 that Fang was detained by the police due to his suspected involvement in Bo Xilai's wiretapping of phone calls to senior officials, including President Hu Jintao, an operation carried out by Bo's police chief, Wang Lijun.
On the same day, Fang immediately denounced the report on his Sina Weibo microblog, saying: "I saw news about me on Yomiuri Shimbun. Such a well-known media outlet also fabricates rumors! I will retain my right to trace the legal responsibility and seek an apology from the reporter who made up the rumors."
Kai-Fu Lee, the founding president of Google China and a prominent blogger, came back with a smart retort to the rare post by Fang, saying: "It's a nuisance to trace the responsibility, just block it!"
Fang was defiant in the face of Lee's taunt. "A hero is silent about his past glories. I will not interfere with this business since I am not in the position. All I can do is to trace the legal responsibility," he said.
His remarks have been explained as a signal that he is no longer the chief figure overseeing the country's notorious internet censorship. Rumors have been gone viral which say that Yan Wangjia is the new overseer of China's Great Firewall. The 43-year-old engineer with a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania founded the IT company Beijing Venustech in 1996. She has been called one of the most beautiful women in Chinese technology circles.
Fang was the chief engineer and director of China's internet censorship program between 1999 and 2007, overseeing the development of filtering and blocking technology that is known humorously as the Great Firewall of China, though it is officially goes by the more lofty-sounding name of Golden Shield.
Understandably unpopular among Chinese internet users, who are well aware that they have only selective access to the web, Fang said in an interview in February last year with the nationalistic tabloid Global Times that he owned six VPNs to test his own firewall, saying the operation of Great Firewall was a "national secret." His remarks aroused rage and criticism from internet users at his unabashed pride in blocking the free flow of information and the newspaper later withdrew the article.
His microblog was repeatedly hacked by netizens at the end of 2010 and reopened nearly a year later, but with the comment function disabled. The microblog account is currently closed.
Fang Binxing 方濱興
Yan Wangjia 嚴望佳
Beijing Venustech 北京啟明星辰信息
Bo Xilai 薄熙來
Wang Lijun 王立軍
Lee Kai-fu 李開復