Bloggers’ Reactions to the 5.12 Earthquake’s First Anniversary

Today marks the 1st anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake. Netizens across the web have weighed in on this solemn day. The following is a brief selection from Chinese bloggers Chang Ping, Hecaitou, and Ai Weiwei. Excerpted and translated by CDT.

From Chang Ping, “How Should We Help the Disaster Areas?” (“我们应该怎样帮助灾区”). Chang Ping is a noted journalist and himself from Sichuan.

Officials have gone, journalists have gone, celebrities have gone, tourists have gone, volunteers have gone …… It will undoubtedly be bustling today in Sichuan’s earthquake disaster areas. In my mind, it should be quieter. After all, this is a memorial anniversary, not a celebratory one. However, I can’t speak and myself not ache. I know the hearts of those in the disaster zones: if it’s too loud, they’ll hate the noise, but if it’s too quiet, they’ll fear being left behind. Comparatively speaking, the latter is more dreadful, so they prefer the commotion.

Moreover, this commotion is being turned into a form of profiteering. To use the words of local officials, this is an important source of tourism. As a result, they’re eager to set up earthquake tourism spots and hope that visitors’ grief, inspection, and experience can become a source of sustained revenue. Some people are absolutely opposed to having 90,000 people’s tragedy be turned into destination sight-seeing spots. My attitude is not as resolute as theirs, but I think people should have at least waited for the dead’s bones to grow cold. Waiting until this time would make it seem more as if people were coming to more deeply understand and be alerted to people’s tragedy, rather than seem as if they were coming to take advantage and make profit of an unfortunate time.

[…] Then, how should we help those in disaster areas? As this year approached, my friends kept bringing up this question. To be frank, this is an incomplete question. If you want to think about how to go and help these areas, you must first know what kind of help these areas need, which is to say that you must first understand their current situation and existing problems. However, from media reports, we always see that their situation is great, that those in disaster zones have already received enough care, that they’re always smiling. If you just watch television, you might think that they’re happier than outsiders, or that they’re even happier than they were pre-earthquake. Now how can this be?

[…] In the media, the more important thing [than the initial outpouring of aid and later government-directed work] seems to be the newfound strength of civil society: the awakening of NGOs and the maturing of charity organizations makes up society’s “third division.” How have these strengths developed in this year? Actually, this is a situation that the media must summarize and review; information these organizations transmit about the current situation and needs of disaster areas is extremely important.

Society ought to grow in its response to helping disaster areas, and we ought to make progress, too. In this sense, by helping those in disaster zones, we are helping ourselves. They won’t always be disaster zones. When they cease to be, what else must we do?

官员去了,记者去了,明星去了,游客去了,志愿者去了……今天的四川地震灾区,一定非常热闹。在我的想象中,它应该更安静一点才好。毕竟,这是周年祭,而不是周年庆。但是,我不能站着说话不腰疼,我知道灾区人的心理,太热闹了嫌吵,但是太安静了又怕被遗忘。相对而言,后者更加可怕,所以他们宁愿忍受热闹。

何况热闹是可以转换成利益的。用地方官员的话来说,这是一个重要的旅游资源。所以他们急于建设地震旅游景点,希望外地人的哀悼、观察和体验能够成为一种可持续性的财政收入。有人坚决反对把九万人丧生的大悲剧当作景点供游览,我的态度倒没有这么决绝,但是认为至少要等到死者尸骨已寒,等到人们来到这里更多地感觉到人类的悲剧及警醒,而不是感觉到有人利用不幸牟利的时候。

[…] 那么我们应该怎样去帮助灾区呢?这一年来,一直有朋友提出这样的问题。事实上,这是一个残缺的问题。要想知道怎么去帮助灾区,首先应该知道灾区的需要什么样的帮助,也就是说要先了解灾区的现状如何,存在什么问题。但是从媒体的报道中,我们总是看见形势一片大好,灾区人民已经得到足够多的关怀,他们总是笑逐颜开。你光看电视的话,会以为他们比外地人还要高兴,甚至比地震前还要高兴。这怎么可能呢?

[…] 在媒体看来,更重要的是民间的新生力量:社会的“第三部门”也就是非政府组织的觉醒,以及民间慈善的成长。这些力量在这一年时间里发展得怎么样呢?其实这是媒体应该回顾和总结的事情。因为灾区的现状如何,需要什么样的帮助,这些机构传递的情况非常重要。

社会应该在帮助灾区的过程中成长,我们也应该在帮助灾区的过程中进步。从这个意义上说,帮助灾区就是帮助我们自己。而灾区并不是始终需要被当作灾区帮助的,当它不是灾区的时候,我们还应该做什么?

Hecaitou writes on the year’s new challenges for those in Chengdu. This week, a man flying to Chengdu was found to be infected with the H1N1 virus.

Last year at this time, we were people in the disaster zone.
This year at this time, we are people in the infected zone.
Last year, we went out to avoid the [dangers of the] earthquake.
This year, we stay inside to avoid the flu.
Last year, we did not want to stay at home.
This year, we do not want hang around outside.
— Chengdu, the city you can’t escape

去年这个时候,我们是灾区人民。
今年这个时候,我们是疫区人民。
去年在外面躲地震,
今年在家里躲流感;
去年没事不要呆在房里,
今年没事不要到外面晃
—成都,一个来了就走不脱的城市

Ai Weiwei has written a hypothetical Q&A session for government officials, asked by himself and answered by himself.

Q: Why is it that you only released a student casualty figure once the May 12th earthquake’s 1st anniversary approached? How many students really died? Do you have this name list? Does your figure have any relation to the “citizen investigation” name list [Ai Weiwei’s list]?

A: I will take responsibility in saying that we only produced the casualty number after a year of cross-checking. We don’t know how many died, but we do know who took money. You must believe us on this part. We will not publish a name list for these students, or publish any similar information. They touch upon “state classified information.” As for the specifics of that classified information, I don’t think you want to know them. I can also say that our numbers have no connection to other people’s investigations.

问:为什么在512地震一周年快要到来时,你们才公布学生遇难数字,?到底有多少学生遇难?你们有这个名单吗?你们这个数字与“公民调查”的名单有什么关系?

答:我很负责任地说,遇难学生的数字是我们经过一年的反复核对的结果,有多少人遇难我们不知道,谁拿了钱我们是知道的,在这一点上,你们要相信我们。我们是不会公布学生死亡的名单或是相关信息的,它们涉及到“国家机密”,具体是什么机密,我想你们也不想知道。我可以很负责地说,我们的数字与任何其它人的调查无关。

Q: Why is it that the student casualty figure went from 6376 to 5335 today? That is a 1041 person difference. Was the first figure correct, and will today’s number change again?

A: Publishing data requires a long process. At the time, we were too fast, and under such circumstances, it is hard to avoid errors. For example, if the student was not at school at the time, we later decided to take that into account.

As for the student casualty figure, we have no need to fabricate figures, nor will we fabricate such figures. In regards to other data, we may have this need, but we may not act upon it. The costs of fabricating figures is steadily increasing; we must carefully consider this. As for if other people have this need, and if they would also fabricate figures, please inquire with other departments.

问:为什么关于学生遇难的数字从6376人变为今天的5335人,有1041人的变化,第一个数字是不是不准确的,今天的数字还会有变化吗?

答:公布数据需要一个很长的过程,我们当时是快了一点。一快就难免出错。比如有的学生遇难时没在学校,我们后来也注意到这样的情况。[…]

但对于地震遇难学生的人数,我们没有任何造假的必要,也不会造假。对于其他方面的数据,我们可能有这个必要,但可能也不会造假。造假的成本越来越大,我们必须慎重考虑。至于其他人有没有这个必要,会不会这样做,请向其他的部门咨询。

Q: Why not publish the student casualty name list? Are there apprehensions that the dead may come back to life?

A: We are materialist, and do not know what you are asking. We are not publishing the name list so as to avoid great emotional distress for the relatives. As you can see, after Vietnam War and 911 name lists were published, America’s economy underwent a severe crisis; it is not as if there isn’t a link, here. We are a government that is very close to the people. We hope that victims’ families will be able to face the future: tourism [see Chang Ping’s post above]. This way, calamity can become a great source for disaster sightseeing. Forgetting the past and rebuilding our homes, this is the spirit of our time.

问:为什么不公布死难者的名单?是不是有死后复生的顾虑?

答:我们是唯物主义者,我不知道你在说什么。死难者名单难以公布是避免因亲人太伤心。你看越南战争的名单和911的名单公布以后,美国的经济发生了巨大的危机,这不是没有关系的。我们是亲民的政府,我们希望遇难家属面向未来,什么是未来,是我们的旅游资源。这次灾难为人类造就了伟大的灾难景观资源。忘记过去,重建家园,是我们的时代精神。

Q: What do you think about the “citizen investigation”?

A: Our country is rich and powerful, so there will be some people who have eaten their fill and have nothing better to do. It is quite possible that 99% of them are mentally ill, as mentioned by the Peking University professor.

问:你对“公民调查”有什么看法?

答:我们的国家富强了,就会有人吃饱饭没事干。不排除他们之中百分之九十九有精神病的北大教授专家意见。

Kai Pan of CNReviews has posted on the top 6 most popular Sichuan earthquake-related videos on Youku. Below is one video taken during Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping Day. See CNReviews for more.



Alice Xin Liu of Danwei
and David Bandurski of the China Media Project have been tracking today’s front page stories.

Please also read CDT’s translation post last year: Li Chengpeng: The True Story of the Miracle Survival of the Students and Teachers of Longhan Elementary School in Beichuan.