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Leaders first

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让领导先走 (ràng lǐngdǎo xiān zǒu): leaders first

Parents of Karamay Fire victims.
The 2011 animation “Little Rabbit, Be Good” references the Karamay Fire.
On December 8, 1994, about 500 schoolchildren gathered in a theater in Karamay, Xinjiang Province to watch a special variety show. Top students had been invited. During the performance, a fire broke out on stage. As it spread, a woman shouted, “Everyone sit down. Don’t move. Let the leaders leave first!” (大家坐下,不要动,让领导先走) 325 people died, including 288 children. 20 Party officials were said to have escaped, among them vice-secretary for educational training at the Xinjiang Petroleum Management Department Kuang Li, who was accused of giving the deadly command.

Because of the sensitive nature of the tragedy and how it reflected on the Party, then-CCTV president Yang Weiguang admitted to stopping reporters from airing a related broadcast, and described how the Central Propaganda Department later gave orders banning coverage of the incident. Beijing-based poet and folk singer Zhou Yunpeng’s song “Don’t Be a Child of the Chinese” (中国孩子) opens with this incident.

Netizens hold up this and other infamous lines as proof that Party officials put their own interests ahead of the needs of the Chinese people.

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