One of China’s top tech billionaires faced an unusual interruption to his speech at a company event on Wednesday, when a man walked on stage and drenched him with water.
Robin Li, the co-founder and CEO of Chinese tech company Baidu, was speaking about self-driving and connected cars when a young man dressed in a black shirt came on stage and emptied a bottle of water over Li’s head.
Li stepped back, trying to shake the water from his hair, and said, “What’s your problem?”
“As you can see, all kinds of unexpected things may happen on our way forward in AI development,” Li said a few seconds later. “But our determination won’t change going forward. We firmly believe AI will change everyone’s life,” he added.
It was not immediately clear who the man was or what his motives were, and Baidu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company echoed Li’s statement on Chinese social media.
“Someone ‘threw cold water’ at us at today’s AI conference,” it said in a post on Chinese social network Weibo. “There may be all kinds of unexpected turns on our path forward in AI development, but we won’t change our mind and will keep going forward.”
Baidu has been at the forefront of China’s artificial intelligence push and has invested billions into AI research including the development of self-driving cars.
Although the company remains China’s dominant search engine, accounting for some 70% of the market share, its performance has fallen behind major rivals such as Tencent and Alibaba in recent months.
Baidu reported a net loss of 327 million yuan ($47 million) for the quarter ended March due to a slump in its main online advertising business. It was the company’s first loss since it went public in 2005, and compared with a profit of 6.7 billion yuan during the same period last year.
Shares in Baidu are down 25% so far this year.
Laura He contributed to this report.