On October 16, two students on roller skates were hit by a speeding car on the grounds of Hebei University in central China. One died while the other broke her leg. The incident would have been just one of the many traffic accidents in China, yet the story somehow gained so much popularity that it has spawned jokes, contests, poems, and songs online.
Despite censorship orders, the traffic accident caught the attention of the general public because it touched a raw nerve in the increasingly unequal Chinese society. The driver of the speeding car is 22-year-old Li Qiming, son of Li Gang, the deputy police chief in a district in Baoding, Hebei. When security guards and students confronted him after the incident, the intoxicated younger Li reportedly shouted, “Sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang.” To make the story even more dramatic, his victim was the daughter of a poor farmer.
The situation reignited a sensitive and controversial perception across China that the rich and powerful can often commit serious crimes and avoid prosecution by having government officials cover for them. Indeed, realizing the sensitivity of the issue, Communist Party censors immediately ordered the media to suppress the story. Yet accounts and pictures flooded the Internet within hours of the incident. In the past, Chinese online users have been known to rally against a common cause. In May 2009, a similar traffic accident saw thousands of demonstrators hold a candlelight vigil on the street in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province after a young man crossing the street was hit by a speeding car on a race with two other cars. Later, photos of the driver of the speeding car laughing and joking with his friends right after the incident circulated on the Internet.
While no major demonstrations have yet taken place due to the recent incident, dissent has been more covert and ironic. Bloggers have sponsored contests to incorporate the phrase “My dad is Li Gang” into classical Chinese poetry, ad slogans, and song lyrics. In one such contest, more than six thousand responded.
Ironic jokes based on the statement have also proliferated in everyday Chinese conversations to mean evading one’s responsibility.
Examples on how to use “My dad is Li Gang”:
“I won’t wash the dishes. My dad is Li Gang.”
“Why should I shower? My dad is Li Gang.”
“Oh by the way, I’m not handing in my homework today. My dad is Li Gang.”