A Chinese aerospace executive and Communist Party official allegedly attacked two famous scientists after drinking alcohol. This triggered a wave of public anger and may embarrass Beijing as it seeks to establish a country that is internationally respected Space program.

According to a report by the state-run Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday, Zhang Tao, chairman and party secretary of China Aerospace Investment Holdings Co., Ltd., was detained by the police on suspicion of attacking Wu Meirong and Wang Jinnian last month.

According to the official China News Weekly report, Wang and Wu refused to recommend Zhang to join the International Academy of Astronautics, a Stockholm-based organization that honors outstanding scientists.

Wu, an 85-year-old key figure in China’s civil satellite program, and a 55-year-old expert in hyperspectral remote sensing for improving satellite imagery, are both members.

Beijing police claimed that Zhang had an argument with the two at a dinner party, and then forced Wang to a corner in the elevator and beat him with kicks and punches. Wu was allegedly knocked down twice while trying to defend her colleague.

Astronauts Tang Hongbo and Liu Boming work on the China Space Station © CCTV/Reuters

The news of the incident sparked widespread condemnation on Chinese social media, and related tags on Weibo and Weibo were viewed hundreds of millions of times before the censors stepped in to suppress the discussion.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is the state-owned parent company of Zhang’s company and one of China’s most important aerospace companies. A statement issued last weekend did not calm people’s emotions because it admitted that Zhang had been drinking.

China’s rapid progress in catching up with the United States in space has become an important source Domestic legitimacy and international soft power For the ruling Communist Party of China.

In the publicity activities celebrating the centenary of the founding of the party on July 1, recent achievements in space exploration occupies a prominent place. Mars rover And the crew arrived at China’s Xintiangong Space Station.

Since the United States banned it from cooperating with NASA due to national security and technological theft ten years ago, Beijing has been trying to portray itself as a welcoming and responsible space nation, open to international cooperation.

It invited scientists from all over the world to conduct scientific experiments on it. space station, And signed an agreement with Russia to establish a joint research base on the moon.

But the video of the Chinese astronaut’s first spacewalk in Tiangong over the weekend was obscured by online anger at Zhang’s alleged attack. Before he was detained, commentators asked why he was not punished.

An article in China News Weekly quoted the doctor’s notes and a statement from China Aerospace Investment Holdings, stating that after the alleged quarrel, Wu was hospitalized for several weeks, Wang visited the doctor several times, and Zhang continued to work normally.

Reporters could not reach Zhang for comment, and China Aerospace Investment Holdings did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Supplementary report by Emma Zhou in Beijing

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