China Mourns Students Killed in Plane Crash

People in China continue to mourn high school students Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan who were killed in the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday. More details have emerged about the girls, who were classmates and close friends at their school in Zhejiang Province. From the Straits Times:

Wang was class representative for three years and teachers and schoolmates described her as excelling in physics and being good at calligraphy and drawing, according to the paper.

[…] Wang’s next-door neighbour, a woman surnamed Xia, described Wang as being quiet, courteous and diligent.

“She was very keen to learn, every time she came home she would be studying, very rarely did she go out and play,” Ms Xia was quoted as saying. She said Wang’s father proudly displayed her calligraphy and art pieces on the walls of his office.

The other victim, Ye, also was a top student who excelled in literature and was talented with the piano, singing, and gymnastics. The Youth Times said Ye had recently won a national gymnastics competition and routinely received honours at the school’s annual speech contests. [Source]

Mourners were angered by a South Korean television broadcaster who commented that the fact that the deceased were Chinese was a “relief” for South Koreans. From the Wall Street Journal blog:

“We just received an update that the two dead are assumed to be Chinese….We can say it is a relief at least for us,” Channel A presenter Yoon Kyung-min said on a news broadcast for the cable news channel on Sunday.

[…] His comments were also quickly picked up by Chinese media, triggering further outrage.

“Is he a human?” many users questioned on Sina Weibo, the popular Twitter-like microblogging service. They called the anchor “brain-damaged,” “unethical” and “inhuman.” Many Weibo users demand his apology and resignation.

Global Times, a sometimes rabble-rousing tabloid owned by the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, called the anchor “indifferent and apathetic.” But the tabloid noted that many Korean netizens also criticized the anchor, quoting posts from Korean forums. [Source]

Ye and Wang were part of a growing cohort of Chinese students whose families have the means to send them overseas for summer study. Of the 291 passengers aboard the Asiana Airlines flight, 70 were students traveling to the U.S. for summer camp. In response to the crash, the region where Wang and Ye’s school was located has suspended all study abroad trips for the summer. From USA Today:

In eastern China’s Zhejiang province, one of the nation’s wealthiest regions, the government also vowed tighter regulation of the new and fast-growing market for summer camp trips and other overseas study tours.

As China grows richer, more families here have the means and the interest to give their offspring, usually single children, a taste of the United States, often with a view to full-time education there when they are older. Of the 141 Chinese citizens aboard the Asiana flight, 70 were students or teachers bound for U.S. summer camps.

The education bureau of Zhejiang’s Quzhou City, which also administers the smaller city of Jiangshan where the two girls studied, issued the order Sunday, to suspend all summer camp trips and study tours, by text message to schoolmasters in the jurisdiction. Organizers of school trips already underway must pay extra attention to safety, said the message, which gave no specific reason for the suspension. [Source]

Meanwhile, some netizens have focused on the more trivial details of the crash by criticizing Chinese passengers who escaped the wreckage with luggage safely in hand. From the Wall Street Journal blog:

Among the lucky majority who walked away from the jetliner crash was a woman in a green blouse. Even as black smoke billowed from the broken fuselage behind her, she was photographed wheeling away a giant suitcase and with another bag over her shoulder.

While the woman’s identity and nationality weren’t apparent, many on the Internet drew their own conclusions about her and others photographed tugging bags away from the wreck. “When I see people escaping the plane with their luggage I know they must be Chinese,” said one user on Sina Corp.’s SINA +2.50% Twitter-like service, Weibo.

[…] Others on the Internet defended the passengers, with one saying that their actions were “instinctive.” No one could be expected to be thinking rationally at such a moment, the poster said.

Mr. Xu explained that the emergency exit was anything but by-the-book for his wife and son, who were seated near the rear of Asiana’s Boeing BA -0.26% 777. The plane’s tail was broken off, leaving a big round hole where the kitchen galley had been. They just jumped out the back, no slide needed. [Source]

Not all survivors were so lucky. Many passengers suffered serious injuries from the crash and are being treated at San Francisco hospitals, including at least six who are in critical condition and two who have been paralyzed.