It seems that even getting some exercise swings the media spotlight your way if are Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself jogging in the Chinese capital of Beijing on Friday, and internet users were horrified that he was not wearing a face mask. Levels of air pollution have recently spiked in Beijing, where pollution is a common problem, according to EFE.

Zuckerberg Sparks Controversy Jogging In Beijing
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Jogging photo leads to online backlash for Zuckerberg

Although Facebook is blocked in China, Zuckerberg uploaded the photo to his profile after arriving in Beijing. In China the social network is only accessible to those using a virtual private network, but the photo got more than 150,000 responses from users around the world in just a few hours.

“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,” Facebook’s chairman and CEO wrote in his post. Zuckerberg was accompanied by a number of friends, none of whom were wearing face masks.

“This also marks 100 miles in A Year of Running. Thanks to everyone who has been running with me – both in person and around the world!” his message added.

Users point out violent past of Tiananmen Square

One user left a comment on the photo noting that before Zuckerberg ran over it, the ground was “covered by blood from students who fought for democracy. But, enjoy your running in China, Mark.” Tiananmen Square was the site of violent repression against protests in 1989.

The choice of setting for the jog caused great controversy on Facebook. A huge portrait of former Chinese dictator Chairman Mao towers over the emblematic square, and the sky is visibly smoggy.

Many people wondered why Zuckerberg eschewed a face mask despite the clearly high levels of air pollution.

“Mark, don’t you see the air pollution? Stop running outside! Beijing is my home, but I’m not recommending you run outside,” one user, Christina Tan, pleaded.

Facebook still blocked in China despite best efforts

“Forgetting something? #Markzuckerberg Smog kills thousands every day. Wear a mask!” Greenpeace’s East Asian office said in a tweet.

The company that designed Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook, uploaded the picture and pointed out that pollution levels had reached 10 times the World Health Organization’s recommended limit. It seems as though the Facebook founder was trying to curry favor with Chinese authorities as he pushes for the social network to be unblocked.

Some members of Chinese society were less than impressed by the post. Leisure magazine The Beijinger asked “How far would you go to curry favor with China?”

By the looks of the photo it seems as though Zuckerberg is willing to put his health on the line if it means convincing Beijing to allow millions and millions of Chinese internet users to log on to Facebook.

Previous attempts have included sucking up to Chinese officials. Zuckerberg told the top Chinese internet official that he was reading a collection of speeches by Chinese president Xi Jinoing during a visit to Facebook headquarters.

Later he spoke in halting Mandaring during a speech at Tsinghua University, and was careful to avoid any reference to Chinese government censorship. Despite persistent attempts Zuckerberg has so far been unsuccessful in his quest, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from trying.