02/09/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Chinese bloggers applaud Wen shoe thrower

In a careful message, prime minister Wen "forgives" the young man from Cambridge. Government sources say that the young man has apologized. But Chinese bloggers are praising the gesture as "freedom of expression," a symbol of what many Chinese would like to do.

Beijing (AsiaNews/News) - Prime minister Wen Jiabao is asking for "clemency" for the German student who threw a shoe at him (missing) on February 2, during his speech at the University of Cambridge (Great Britain). But while the Chinese government says that the young man has apologized, Chinese internet users are applauding his exemplary demonstration of "freedom of expression."

The website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry depicts a conciliatory Wen, who expresses the hope that the young man "will have the opportunity to continue his education," but also that "the student recognises his mistake" in an action that "aroused the strong indignation of the audience and the entire Chinese people, and hurt the image and reputation of [the University of] Cambridge in China.

"We note that the student has openly apologised," the message continues. "The student's actions show that he lacks even basic understanding of China."

Martin Jahnke, age 27, will appear in Cambridge court today. He threw the shoe shouting: "How can the university prostitute itself with this dictator?"

But a wide variety of messages are being posted to the web by many Chinese. Shao Jiang, who presents himself as "a Tiananmen Massacre survivor," writes to the "shoe thrower" and tells him that "what you have done has greatly encouraged people in China to fight for freedom, democracy and human rights." "I firmly believe that when you threw the shoe at the Chinese dictator, you were exercising the freedom of expression on behalf of those who have never had the chance to express their despair," and that "many Chinese bloggers have been irritated when they heard that [British prime minister] Gordon Brown and the Cambridge authorities have both apologized to the Communist regime . . . If anyone has the chance to get in touch with the shoe thrower, please pass on this open letter."

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