Sunday, 31 July 2011

Trying to Turn Off the Tap of Anger

The Chinese government has had enough.

After seven days of grief, anger and frustration, mainland authorities have now imposed a media ban on all state media from reporting or talking about the Wenzhou train crash.

The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China issued an order to all newspaper and internet editors at 9pm Friday to stop all coverage on the crash, forcing them to scramble to fill pages just before the printing deadline.

This is ironic considering the order happened a day after Premier Wen Jiabao visited the accident site and pledged transparency and openness.

The edict said: "After the serious rail traffic accident on July 23, overseas and domestic public opinions have become increasingly complicated. All local media, including newspapers, magazines and websites, must rapidly cool down the reports of the incident.

"[You] are not allowed to publish any reports or commentaries, except positive news or information released by the authorities."

Orders come down from the propaganda department on a daily basis, but this one was unprecedented.

As a result China Business Journal had to scramble to fill eight pages, 21st Century Business Herald 12 pages and Beijing News nine pages. Most newspapers in the country also had to take out the latest reports on the train accident from their front pages at the last minute.

The extreme measure was akin to trying to scrub out a stain so that it looked as if it never existed.

This kind of response shows the government's paranoia of people's anger getting out of hand, questioning its legitimacy to rule.

However people are already wondering who is ruling them. They were not particularly assuaged when Grandpa Wen showed up four days late only to give the lame excuse that he was lying in a hospital bed when he was busy conducting business. His persona of trying to be the softer, kinder side of the regime has lost its lustre. All people want is the truth -- what happened, why and how.

When the Sichuan earthquake happened in 2008, the media was open to report on the fortitude of the survivors and the hard work of the soldiers. But it also quickly revealed how ill-equipped the army was and sadly how poorly-constructed the buildings were, in particular the schools which led to thousands of children dead.

The train crash was quickly reported because someone on the stationary train reported on his or her microblog that something was wrong. From then onwards, the story caught on like wildfire -- and the Chinese government had no time to craft excuses or a narrative to fit the situation.

This time it was severely caught flat-footed and was punished for it by the anger of the relatives of the victims and the public as a whole, who were led to believe their country had the most advanced train system in the world.

The government thinks it can out-smart or out-run its people. But technology has a way of giving the masses a leg-up.

Senior officials can't hide anymore. The only way they can justify their leadership is to be open and transparent.

But that would only lead to the Communist Party's demise.

1 comment:

  1. don't forget fire cannot be wrapped up by paper. and a little spark can burn down a prairie. power of the people is like a torrent it cannot be resisted.