Chinese netizens expressed sadness and anger when a school bus in rural Gansu crashed, killing 20 people aboard including 18 children. The bus had nine seats but was carrying 64 people. Since then, the head of the school responsible has been arrested and Premier Wen Jiabao has vowed to use central government funds to improve transportation safety for the nation’s school children. Recent reports that China has donated 23 school buses to Macedonia, each fitted with 35 seats and meeting safety standards has again sparked outrage online. The Washington Post reports:
News of the donation ignited a torrent of criticism, with 500,000 comments posted by Monday to Sina Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like micro-blog service, run by Sina Corp. Many asked: How could China make the donation to a foreign country when Chinese schools contend with shoddy transport?
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei would not comment on the online furor but did say the buses were provided under a 2010 agreement. He said China had accepted large amounts of foreign aid — including assistance from Macedonia during a major earthquake in Sichuan in 2008 — and was now providing assistance of its own.
Zhang Ming, a politics professor at Renmin University, suggested the donation was a betrayal to the Chinese people.
“One does not have to go through exams to get qualifications (to be a traitor). When one climbs up there and becomes a big official, one will have them,” he wrote on Sina Weibo.
Overcrowding vans and buses to bring children to school in rural areas is a common phenomenon, with a lack of funding and few options for safe transportation available. See photos of children crammed into a school van from 2009.