Chinese Internet vigilantes have launched a hunt for a self-professed British bounder who has sparked outrage by blogging about his seduction of women in Shanghai. The campaign to uncover the identity of the blogger and have him kicked out of China is the latest in a series of online denunciations that have drawn comparisons with the humiliations inflicted by mobs during the Cultural Revolution.
Traffic on the Sex and Shanghai blog had surged from 500 hits to more than 17,000, thanks to a swarm of castration threats, anti-British rants and attacks on women who sleep with foreigners.
However, a person responding to an e-mail to a contact address on the site said the authors were a group of performance artists who had fabricated its content as an investigation into online vigilante behavior.
"We did not anticipate quite the level of anger this would raise," said the message, which said the authors behind the cyber name "Chinabounder" included a British man, an Australian woman, two Chinese men and a Japanese woman.
The message said the blog had been closed out of concern for the safety of the group's Chinese members and ordinary expatriates in Shanghai.
The English-language blog was inaccessible yesterday, but a cached page could still be read through the Google search engine.
Along with mildly lurid accounts of dates with Chinese women, it contained irreverent comments about Chinese society, and some on the controversy generated by the blog.
The campaign against the blog was launched on Friday by Zhang Jiehai, professor of psychology in the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences under a post titled "The Internet Hunt for an Immoral Foreigner."
"I have something to tell Chinese men: please think about how these foreign trash have dallied with your sisters and made fun of your impotence," he wrote. "This piece of human garbage must be found and kicked out of China!!!"
Encouraging "netizens and patriots" to investigate the people and the places mentioned in the blog, he set a goal of expelling "Chinabounder" by Oct. 1. More than 1,500 people are now visiting Zhang's site every hour.
Numerous reader postings on Zhang's blog supported his call for a manhunt, often in highly profane terms.
"This kind of garbage, chop his head off," wrote one who signed as "sanipuga."
"Pardon me, but I think these women are also garbage, national scum," said another, signed "Jiehuo."
"Trial by virtual lynching has become the norm in China's cyberspace community," Raymond Zhou wrote in a comment article in China Daily after previous mass campaigns.
He added: "Online flaming wars exist everywhere, facilitated by anonymity. But in China they may have a self-propelling force that sweeps thousands, sometimes millions, into a frenzy. It is nearly impossible, even for the most respected scholars, to give voice to dissension."