The death of a young female journalist on the site of a politically charged infrastructure project in Xinjiang Province earlier this month has drawn the scrutiny of netizens, according to David Bandurski of the China Media Project:
The Tianzi Road Project is an important source of political capital for local Party leaders in Xinjiang and there has been pressure in recent months to complete phase two. On April 16, just two days before the on-site accident, local media reported that work on the project had been accelerated.
One source in Xinjiang, who requested anonymity given the local sensitivity of this story, said many problems had been exposed at the Tianzi Road Project and that the local government had violated normal construction procedures for the sake of “political point scoring” (政府为了政绩违背建设规律一味最求速度). The source also alleged that the Urumqi Evening Post had sent two inexperienced interns to the Tianzi Road Project worksite because it believed they would be more amenable to the propaganda goals of the local leadership.
According to the Xinjiang source, the accident on April 18 happened on a section of the project directly across from Urumqi’s famous bazaar, the “Dabazha.” The source also told CMP that the reporting intern killed in the accident, Bailu (拜璐), belongs to China’s muslim Hui minority.
The priority nature of the infrastructure project and the ethnicity of the intern who was killed both make this a potentially sensitive story for the local leadership.
Bandurski further reports that Sina Weibo users noticed when the Urumqi Evening Post deleted one post on the story and removed specific details from another. with some netizens speculating that local officials wanted to distance themselves and the project from the tragedy.