Several days ago, China suffered many consecutive earthquakes. However, The Chinese government’s response to natural disasters is very unusual.
In the two days, three earthquakes hit Sichuan. Among them, two earthquakes occurred in Lushan County.
According to China Earthquake Networks, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake occurred on June 1 in Lushan County, Ya’an City, Sichuan Province. The quake hit Lushan at 5:00 p.m local time.
Some people in Sichuan believed that the earthquake was the strongest since 2008. The 2008 Sichuan earthquake occurred on May 12, 2008, with a magnitude-7.9 quake.
Three minutes later, another earthquake of magnitude 4.5 occurred in Baoxing County. The county is only 21 miles away from Lushan County, Sichuan Province.
The next day, another 3.2 magnitude earthquake unexpectedly occurred in Lushan County, Ya’an City, Sichuan.
China media reported that, as of 9 a.m. on June 2, the earthquake had killed four people and injured 41, including one person in a critical condition. As of 5 a.m. on the 2nd, 12,722 people were evacuated.
The Sichuan earthquake has casualties, but Chinese official media report Brazil floods on the front page.
Afterward, everyone in Sichuan province, where it occurred, was anxious to know about the number of casualties and assets losses that had resulted. And usually, the news about this catastrophic event would be on the front page of all local newspapers for a long time.
But strangely, on such a tragic day, the front page of the local newspaper Sichuan Daily did not report about this earthquake. Instead, the front page highlighted news of how top Chinese leaders sent condolences to Brazil after these South American countries went through a flood.
Huaxi Metropolis Daily, a Chengdu newspaper, didn’t give any earthquake report either; they reported Shanghai was back and Li Keqiang’s State Council meeting.
Now the Chinese are waiting for the accurate number of those killed and injured. However, people found official earthquake info on less prominent online pages; then it’s completely gone, even top searched results on June 03.
It’s not the first time. During the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, there were also many strange Chinese authorities responding.
At 2:28 p.m. on May 12, 2008, one of the most devastating earthquakes in Chinese history struck Wenchuan county, Sichuan province. The quake left more than 69,000 people dead, 374,000 injured, 18,000 missing, and millions homeless.
The earthquake struck 88 days before the Olympic Games. The games were set to begin in Beijing at 8 p.m. on the 8th of the eighth month in 2008.
The earthquake was an opportunity for China’s leaders to play their role.
Aaron Yang from Claremont McKenna College published a report in 2017. The report said about the China Government’s disaster response.
It said that by 7 p.m. on May 12, Wen Jiabao had arrived in Sichuan. That night, at 10 p.m., he went to the Chinese Medicine Hospital in Dujiangyan. Wen strolled around the wreckage. He inquired of the rescuers, “How many patients were in the building? How many survivors have been found? Is there hope?”
At Xinjian Primary School, he heard that two students were alive but trapped in the wreckage. Wen called out to two students, “I am Grandpa Wen Jiabao. You must hold on, child! You will be saved!”
One pro-government newspaper wrote that Wen Jiabao had tripped while inspecting rescue operations but declined medical care for his bloodied arm. He didn’t want to divert medical attention and supplies from others in need.
Another article reported that Wen screamed at a general over the phone when he learned that army troops had not yet arrived at the earthquake’s epicenter. “I don’t care what you do. I want 100,000 people saved. That is my order.” Then, he slammed the phone on the table.
A few hours after the earthquake, Premier Wen appeared on live television, shouting encouragement. Many photos of Wen show him embracing youngsters, conversing with survivors, or walking with rescue workers amid the rubble.
The state media didn’t hesitate to show tearful moms, trapped bodies, and rescuers at work. Previous disaster coverage in the media omitted traces of the dead, injured, and other disaster impacts. Instead, they focused on happy images of rescuers and optimistic politicians.
However, not long after the earthquake, China played a different role.
Initially, China didn’t allow journalists to enter the earthquake area, but it reversed its initial prohibition.
Hundreds of journalists immediately went to Sichuan. Foreign media was also allowed unfettered access in the aftermath of the earthquake. According to China Daily, at least 545 overseas reporters reported from Sichuan right after the earthquake.
In an unusual move, President Hu commended international journalists for risking their lives to report from the earthquake disaster zones.
Six weeks after the earthquake, China changed its mind again. Journalists began to focus on the shoddy construction of the several school buildings that collapsed. China clamped down on independent media reporting.
When parents in Sichuan discovered that the school buildings had not been built to earthquake-proof standards, they began to criticize the administration. On May 12, at least 6,500 students and teachers died in their classrooms. The earthquake caused at least 7,000 school buildings to collapse.
The police officers prohibited them from filing the documents. BBC attempted to enter the court later that day, but over 100 officers suspended the way. The Chinese government also blocked up damaged and collapsed school buildings. Before that, they were widely utilized as makeshift memorials for mourning parents.
Faced with such a response, China’s leadership resumes censorship of the media and repression of protests. Officials started limiting national conversation. China removed any criticism of the collapsing school buildings from online forums and web discussion groups. Posts that were considered critical were removed.
China’s leaders struggled to create a good image in response to the earthquake. However, they erased their good image when they suppressed human rights activists.
The authorities prevented activists from seeking more information about the earthquake. China arrested four activists. Each of the four people detained faced similar allegations. China committed crimes against the state for them.
Ai Weiwei, a well-known critic and artist tried to determine how many students were missing. Then the authorities persecuted him. His blog was taken down; China temporarily detained more than 50 volunteers.
Zeng Hongling was a retired university professor. She was imprisoned for subversion in May 2008. Before, she posted three pieces about her experiences after the earthquake.
Liu Shakun was a teacher. He posted photographs of collapsed schools online. The government convicted him of disseminating rumors and upsetting social order in August 2008.
Tan Zuoren was also jailed for subversion in March 2009. He attempted to compile a child victim list of the collapsed schools.
After each major disaster, the Chinese government often censors the content that people discuss and suppresses dissenting voices.