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Town disaster

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镇灾 (zhèn zāi) town disaster

Cartoonist Rebel Pepper (变态辣椒) drew this in criticism of the police crackdown that followed massive flooding in Yuyao, Zhejiang in October of 2013. (Rebel Pepper)

镇灾 (zhèn zāi), meaning “town disaster,” is a play on the Mandarin word 赈灾 (zhènzāi), which means “disaster relief.” This homonym came into use amid mounting anger at the official response to historic flooding in Yuyao, Zhejiang province after Typhoon Fitow landed in southeastern China in October of 2013.

Crowds in Yuyao became angry and took to the streets after state media downplayed the massive typhoon's impact on the community. Riot police then flocked to Yuyao en masse, further angering residents as government efforts to maintain stability seemed to outweigh initial relief efforts.

While social media had in the past been a major venue for public organization and reaction in the wake of natural disaster, it remained relatively quiet amid the flooding and riots in Yuyao due to an ongoing crackdown on online expression. After cartoonist Wang Liming (aka Rebel Pepper) posted information about Yuyao to his Sina Weibo account, he found himself in detention and his pen name censored.