A Reporter’s Investigation Exposed a Scandal
Originally from Dayang Net. Partially translated by Wu Nan.
Last week China’s State Council formed a special investigative team to examine a landslide accident in Loufan county of Shanxi Province. It was originally reported that “eleven people were killed and it was a natural landslide accident.” But now the special investigation is looking into the false reporting. The website of the State Administration of Work Safety showed that 41 bodies of victims have been found. How did the whole thing turn from “a natural disaster” to “a severe accident”? It was because of Sun Chunlong, an investigative reporter from “Oriental Outlook” weekly who wrote an open letter to the governor of Shanxi, and exposed his investigation of the truth on his blog.
Here’s a timeline of the whole event:
On August 1, 2008, Shanxi provincial media reported that a natural landslide happened in Loufan county and 11 people were buried underneath and died.
By the end of August, reporter Sun Chunlong and a freelance writer Wang Xiaoze published the article, “Loufan: the Delayed Truth,” and pointed out that the so-called Loufan accident was falsely reported. The real death toll shot up to 41. It was not natural disaster, but a major liability accident.
On Sept. 14, Sun Chunlong’s blog published the letter ” To Mr. Wang Jun, the acting governor of Shanxi Province.” The letter once again pointed out the problem of the Loufan accident.
On Sept. 17, Premier Wen Jiabao and State Councilor Ma Kai acknowledged that the blog exposed the truth of Loufan, and demanded Shanxi Province verify the facts.
The State Council supervised and the Shanxi government directed the investigation team. It found out the place where the incident happened was run by the New Tower Mining Company. For one week from Sept. 22-29, 41 bodies of victims and six individual body parts were found.
On October 6, the State Council approved the special investigation into the false reporting of the event.
Q&A with the investigative reporter Sun Chunlong:
(Sun, born in 1976, a native of Shanxi, is currently the director of the social investigation department and also the editor-in-chief of “Oriental Outlook,” an in-depth investigative weekly magazine based in Beijing. )
Q: Why were you concerned about the Loufan incident?
Sun: After I read reports on the incident, my first reaction was that something might be covered up. On the Internet, one section called “Loufan bar” said the death toll was concealed. My friends in Shanxi said it, too. So I went to Loufan to investigate. My colleague Wang Xiaoze helped me and did some interviews in Beijing.
Q: Can you tell us about your interviews, any difficulties encountered?
Sun: The local government went after the reporters. Once the identity of a reporter was leaked, you would be “kicked out” of Loufan county.
I took the train and kept a few hundred meters away from the checkpoint when I got off. I walked into Loufan and lived in a mining site. Throughout the interview, I had to disguise myself. On the road to the scene of the accident, there were three checkpoints, I had to bypass them for my investigation.
Q: How did you come up with a list of 41 people who died?
Sun: At that time, many family members of the victims stayed in a local hotel. I asked dozens of those family members to write down their missing relatives’ names. In order to verify the list, my colleague, Wang Xiaoze, phoned every village that those people were from and finally confirmed those names.
Q: You already published the article “Loufan: the Delayed Truth.” Why did you have to blog the letter?
Sun: When the article was published, many websites reproduced the article, but the links were all missing and the article was unable to be viewed. I was upset about it and decided to blog it to tell the truth.
Q: When you blogged it, did you think that it may raise the attention of the national leaders?
Sun: No, I just wanted to expose the matter. I remember in my interviews, family members shed tears. At the beginning they did not trust me. They said that many reporters came to Loufan to report the event, but none had published reports. I promised them to try my best to expose it. I could not forget the families who looked helpless and I wished that I could help them. If I did not expose it, wasn’t I a derelict reporter ?
The names of 41 victims confirmed by Sun and Wang:
Loufan County, Majiazhuang town, Xiangsigou village: Si Dawei, Li Gaiwen, Wang Tiedan, Su Xianxian, Li Liangze, Si Yuying, Wang Decun, Lou Hongyan, Hao Aicun, Li Wuxiang, Ho Sanhua, Su Jiawei, Su Jiali and Su Jinchan.
Loufan county, Tianchidian town, Nanfen village：Gao Yuanqing
Loufan county, Tianchidian town, Tianchidian village: Cun Mansheng
Jiaocheng county, Dongpodi town, Zhongjiagou village: Li Hugai, Li Laigui, Li Jian, Zhao Xuewen, Hao Dongze, and Fang Genda.
Jiaocheng county, Dongpodi town, Dulihui village: Ma Fusuo, Gong Lieyu, Ma Yaohui.
Jiaocheng county, Dongpodi town, Ma’anping village: Cui Shuyi and Yan Huan’e.
Jiaocheng county, Dongpodi town, Lijiagou village: Hu Sixin, Wu Yaoqiang and Wu Wenqiang.
Fangshan county, Mafang town, Yangjiagoucun: Guo Qugui, Zhang Danjun, Guo Xudong, Guo Xiaxia, Guo Huihui,and the son of Guo Xudong.
Fangshan county, Jicui town, Bangluo village: Ma Jiping
Lin county, Muguoping town, Haojiacha village: Guo Lai Shun
Gansu province, Guanghe county, Sanjiaji town, Zhentou village: Ma Jinalin, Ma Maimu and Ma Fuhua.