Beijing: It must have seemed like a brilliant idea. New city, new friends, why not get out early and hit the streets for a energising jog?
But whether or not Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg sought to trigger a debate about either Beijing’s notorious pollution or his relentless wooing of Chinese leaders who have blocked his network, he managed to to do so.
“It’s great to be back in Beijing! I kicked off my visit with a run through Tiananmen Square, past the Forbidden City and over to the Temple of Heaven,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook, somehow avoiding the government filters that usually block access to his creation.
A photo accompanying the post, made about 10.30am, shows him smiling with several running companions in front of the famous portrait of Mao Zedong that overlooks Tiananmen Square.
Reports said that at 9am, an air-quality monitor at the United States Embassy in Beijing calculated the level of PM2.5, the ultrafine particles that damage respiration, at 305 microgrammes per cubic meter. That level is deemed “hazardous” under American air-quality standards, yet neither Mr Zuckerberg or his colleagues were running with air-filtering masks.
The Associated Press reported that Mr Zuckerberg post sparked a torrent of comments on Chinese social media.
Some Chinese residents wonderedwhether Mr Zuckerberg’s jog was yet another gesture aimed at pleasing the Chinese authorities who claim they are gradually winning the battle against air pollution.
“Kissing up?” commented Tom Wang, a Chinese environmentalist, who reposted Mr Zuckerberg’s running photo and added a graphic of Beijing’s air quality readings from Friday morning.
Journalist and avid runner Peng Yuanwen joked that Mr Zuckerberg’s lungs had single-handedly filtered Beijing’s smog after the city’s air quality noticeably improved by early afternoon, the AP said
“The human-flesh smog vacuum is better when it’s American-made,” he said,
Others noted that Mr Zuckerberg’s run took him through the square where hundreds of thousands of Chinese students gathered in the spring of 1989 to demand democracy.
The movement ended in the early hours of June 4 after troops and tanks crushed all resistance, killing hundreds, possibly thousands of protesters.