Users of Sina Weibo, China’s most popular social network, helped break the news about Fang Daguo, a high-ranking communist official.  

A story China’s state-run news agency Xinhua confirmed what users of social site Sina Weibo already knew yesterday: A high-ranking communist official and his wife verbally and physically abused a stewardess on a China Southern Airways flight.

The wife of Fang Daguo—a top party member in the a district of southern mega-city Guangzhou—smelled strongly of alcohol when the two boarded a China Southern Airlines flight on Aug. 29, according to the Xinhua report. The flight was packed, and when a stewardess couldn’t find storage place for the couple’s luggage directly overhead, she asked if she could move it elsewhere.

Fang became irate, grabbing the woman’s arm. According to Xinhua and translated by the Wall Street Journal, his wife reportedly shouted: “If it weren’t for us, you wouldn’t even have food to eat.” Soon enough Fang had grabbed his luggage and used it as a weapon, beating the stewardess while his wife screamed: “Aren’t you just a flight attendant? I know your boss!”

An account of the incident was shortly posted to Sina Weibo, China’s most popular social network, where it was shared more than 15,000 times and received nearly 10,000 comments. Photos of the flight attendant’s bruised and scratched arms, as well as her torn uniform, also spread quickly across the Web community, which boasts more than 350 million users.

Chinese officials have attracted the Chinese Web community’s ire in the past, but Fang is also a commissar for the military. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Josh Chin:

“This is a rare instance in which someone with connections to China’s powerful military has had his misdeeds mentioned in the state-run press following a social media outcry.”

Fang and his wife later apologized to the attendant, who wrote on her own blog: “Everything’s been handled properly. Thanks to all my Web friends for your concern!”

That post received more than 57,000 comments.

“In the new media era,” one user wrote. “No one can hide the truth from the people.”

On Sep. 2, Fang was suspended, and the incident is being formally investigated. That news was the second most popular post on Sina Weibo Monday morning—three days after the first post went live—with 2,536,128 mentions.

Photo via Sina Weibo

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