China Aerospace Investment Holdings chairman in custody after two academics assaulted

Boffins in hospital, official goes to work as normal until social media blows up


The head of China Aerospace Investment Holdings has been taken into police custody after a video showing two senior scientists being attacked went viral on China's microblogging site Weibo and TenCent's WeChat last week.

Reports soon came out that the pair were so badly beaten they remain hospitalised a month later. Zhang Tao, who is alleged to have been the assailant, appeared unscathed in his position at the company. But now the internet is scratching their heads – why did this incident take so long to gain public attention or any apparent action to be taken?

According to a police report, on 6 June, chairman and Chinese Communist Party secretary of China Aerospace Investment Holdings Zhang Tao was dining with 55-year-old Wang Jinnian and 86-year-old Wu Meirong when Zhang was claimed to have "quarrelled" with the pair. The argument, according to news reports, was allegedly due to Zhang pressuring the pair to recommend him for membership in the Stockholm-based International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).

Both Wang and Wu belong to the organisation, which grants membership to individuals who have distinguished themselves in astronautics or other fields related to space exploration.

According to reports in Chinese state run media, after the scientists denied his request, the chairman allegedly became angry, and ultimately escorted the pair back to Wang's home, where the attack, in a hallway monitored by a security camera, took place.

A video alleged to be of the attack was widely disseminated on social media.

On 2 July, journalists from state-run China News Weekly visited Zhang's office to find he was still employed, although out of the office. While Zhang continued working in his normal capacity almost a month after the incident, the news outlet reported that the academics were still in the hospital recovering from the assault.

Wu, 86, is said to have suffered fractures in her spine that required surgery and Wang, 55, is alleged to have sustained rib fractures and soft tissue injuries. China News Weekly reported the security footage includes Wang in a chokehold at one point.

Graphic images of the assault blew up on social media. Parent company China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation's (CASC) social media posts celebrating the country's space achievements were flooded with questions about the attack. Many wanted to know why it took so long for the story to come to light.

CASC released a statement firewalled in some countries, but accessible in Hong Kong. When translated to English through automated tools, the 4 July text reads:

Since the incident of [alleged] drunk beatings by Comrade Zhang Tao, Secretary of the Party Committee and Chairman of the Aerospace Investment Holding Co., Ltd., the China Aerospace Science and Technology Group Co., Ltd. party group has attached great importance to it and made the decision to suspend the performance of Comrade Zhang Tao and cooperate with the investigation.

The state-owned Fortune 500 company also said it was investigating the incident and will respond accordingly to the investigation's result before thanking netizens for their attention.

The day after CASC released a statement, local police described the incident on Weibo in detail, adding "Based on the facts... and injury identification, on July 5, the Chaoyang Public Security Bureau criminally detained Zhang in accordance with the law. Currently, the case is under investigation."

CASC responded a version of the following in Mandarin:

China Aerospace Science and Technology Group Co., Ltd. firmly supports the public security organs to deal with it in accordance with the law, and will never tolerate it.

The statements and public attention occur within a week of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and China's second spacewalk.

CASC is also known as one of the entities named in the November 2020 executive order barring US-based companies from investing in Chinese technology companies that finance communist military outfits. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Tesla driver charged with vehicular manslaughter after deadly Autopilot crash

    Prosecution seems to be first of its kind in America

    A Tesla driver has seemingly become the first person in the US to be charged with vehicular manslaughter for a deadly crash in which the vehicle's Autopilot mode was engaged.

    According to the cops, the driver exited a highway in his Tesla Model S, ran a red light, and smashed into a Honda Civic at an intersection in Gardena, Los Angeles County, in late 2019. A man and woman in the second car were killed. The Tesla driver and a passenger survived and were taken to hospital.

    Prosecutors in California charged Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, in October last year though details of the case are only just emerging, according to AP on Tuesday. Riad, a limousine service driver, is facing two counts of vehicular manslaughter, and is free on bail after pleading not guilty.

    Continue reading
  • AMD returns to smartphone graphics with new Samsung chip for your pocket computer

    We're back in black

    AMD's GPU technology is returning to mobile handsets with Samsung's Exynos 2200 system-on-chip, which was announced on Tuesday.

    The Exynos 2200 processor, fabricated using a 4nm process, has Armv9 CPU cores and the oddly named Xclipse GPU, which is an adaptation of AMD's RDNA 2 mainstream GPU architecture.

    AMD was in the handheld GPU market until 2009, when it sold the Imageon GPU and handheld business for $65m to Qualcomm, which turned the tech into the Adreno GPU for its Snapdragon family. AMD's Imageon processors were used in devices from Motorola, Panasonic, Palm and others making Windows Mobile handsets.

    Continue reading
  • Big shock: Guy who fled political violence and became rich in tech now struggles to care about political violence

    'I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy,' billionaire VC admits

    Billionaire tech investor and ex-Facebook senior executive Chamath Palihapitiya was publicly blasted after he said nobody really cares about the reported human rights abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China.

    The blunt comments were made during the latest episode of All-In, a podcast in which Palihapitiya chats to investors and entrepreneurs Jason Calacanis, David Sacks, and David Friedberg about technology.

    The group were debating the Biden administration’s response to what's said to be China's crackdown of Uyghur Muslims when Palihapitiya interrupted and said: “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? ... I’m telling you a very hard ugly truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about … yes, it is below my line.”

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022