Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Stark Reality in the Aftermath

How coincidental that Hong Kong and Beijing are both cleaning up from messes caused by storms.

I'm continuing to hear first-person accounts of being stuck on planes on the tarmac because although the plane has landed, no airport crew would help them get off the aircraft for several hours. They were not given any water or food until people complained nor did they turn on the entertainment system for passengers to pass the time more easily.

On the other side were planes trying to take off, but stuck on the runway because conditions were so adverse that eventually they returned to the gate and asked people to go home and come back the next day.

Then there are news reports that commuters were stuck in KCR stations because of trees that had fallen along the track, breaking cables. While staff said they did all they could to help people get home, some people complained there was a lack of information and shuttle buses, the latter probably because it was considered dangerous to drive outside in Typhoon 10 weather conditions.

As a result it meant some people had to sleep overnight in the stations because they could not afford extra-expensive taxis, or brave the weather and make it home by foot, completely drenched.

The MTR Corporation needs to be held accountable for the mess in dealing with this emergency situation, particularly now as it is requesting to raise its fares in this tough economic climate.

Surely more people are going to object when they feel its emergency services are not adequate.

Meanwhile as Beijing continues to clean up from the mess, criticism has not backed down, particularly online.

Many questioned the number of dead at 37, saying it could be higher, as well as more than seven missing.

Today Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong and his deputy formally resigned from their positions in order to take on new ones that had been planned months ago.

Guo will become Beijing's party secretary, while Ji Lin is said to take up a position as head of the city's Political and Legal Committee.

But before Guo left office, the government tried to pacify public anger by showing him visiting hard-hit Fangshan at 11pm Monday evening.

Chinese state media had extensive coverage of Guo talking to victims at midnight and ordered local officials to accurately report the number of deaths and release information about the disaster in a timely manner.

He was also shown giving donations to victims and their families, adding the Beijing government had ordered all cadres to follow suit. He even added people should write to him if they had problems.

However people online mocked Guo's staged appearance, while others wondered if officials read any of the criticism posted online.

But then again they may not have had a chance to read anything as government censors were busy deleting not only criticism of how officials handled the disaster but also horrible personal accounts during the flooding.

There were many heart-warming stories of people opening up their homes and businesses to people stranded by the adverse weather, or even went out in dangerous conditions in their cars to ferry people to the airport.

Many others complained about how the government was more concerned about shiny new buildings than Soviet-style drainage systems dating back from some 60 years ago.

For the most part people were tired of hearing the propaganda and not believing anything officials were saying.

Perhaps the most ironic statement comes from Wang Hui, Beijing city government spokeswoman. Her previous claim to fame was moderating all Beijing Olympics press conferences so she's one connected woman keen to appear professional.

"Doing the inspection work is not easy," she said. "Do believe us that we will speak the truth."

Does she mean the truth according to the Beijing government or the real truth?

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