Mercenary Masonry

One of the big stories flying around China this week is about a 74 year old fellow in Lanzhou, named Yan Zhengping, who, in his attempt to 'raise awareness' (my least favorite term in the American English language) of pedestrian safety has taken to throwing bricks at cars that run red lights at pedestrian crossings.  He was briefly detained ( scolded and sent home), but the story has become viral on the internet.  And the interesting thing is that he's become somewhat of a folk hero for his actions.  From the Shanghai Daily:

A retired teacher, who sparked nationwide controversy – and a lot of
support – by throwing bricks at vehicles that ran red lights on a
pedestrian crossing, yesterday defended his action, saying he was
protecting pedestrians.

Yan Zhengping, 74, became an Internet
sensation after he lobbed bricks at 14 cars at the intersection over a
period of more than three hours late last Thursday. A large crowd saw
his feat and cheered him on in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's
Gansu Province.

"I know it was illegal, but I had to do it to raise awareness on the safety of pedestrians," said Yan.

Yan said he just wanted to remind motorists to think of pedestrians. Hundreds
of local residents applauded him last Thursday and two elderly men
joined him in throwing bricks. Some crowd members found them more
bricks and brought them water. All 14 drivers fled the scene in their damaged cars after seeing the crowd.

Police interviewed Yan and he was released without charge. Internet
polls by China's major Websites, including and,
showed that most Netizens supported Yan. In one poll, 260,000 of
330,000 respondents backed Yan's action.

I can sort of relate to this guy as sometimes I think it's the traffic here that will finally drive me 'round the bend.'  Back in the 1990's when I lived in Changchun, in the days when cars were just beginning to clog the roads, I had visions (nightmares, really) that one day I would snap and be found standing in an intersection like a crazed woman shouting "IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS," and the men in white coats would arrive and put me in a straightjacket, and then they'd call my boss and say, "Mr. W. It's time."

And now the Brickman of Lanzhou becomes the new People's Hero….bettering China one brick at a time! 

I also notice that all 14 drivers fled the scene when they spotted the crowd.  Smart move. 

UPDATE:  A reader and former colleague who used to live in Bejiing and terrorize cab driver writes:  "Reminds me of slapping
one of those tiny yellow van taxis with my umbrella one night as he about ran a
bunch of us down (running a red light).  He got out and wanted to fight me.  I
guess I needed a mob and more daylight."