[in translation]

By the time that the Xinhua Agency formally announced that an earthquake had taken place in Wenchuan, there was already a vast amount of information on the Internet.  A netizen named Niuben posted an inquiry at 14:29 at the Tianya Forum: "Extremely urgent!  Where did the earthquake occur?"  (Note: The official time of the earthquake was 14:28.)  In the next ten minutes, netizens from Wuhan, Beijing, Zhengzhou, Chengdu and elsewhere replied that they had experienced quaking.  Because communication from the earthquake zone was interrupted, a video taken by a Sichuan university student during the earthquake was uploaded immediately and repeatedly show on mainland and foreign television channels repeatedly for the next few days.

If this is said to be a media battle, then it began when the Internet posed the first piece of news about the earthquake.  At that stage, the forums, QQ, MSN, Twitter and other Internet tools bested the traditional news agency in terms of timeliness for the moment.

At that time, the army has not entered the disaster area and most parts of Sichuan did not have communication yet, so the Internet was able to leverage its rapid reaction and moved ahead of the traditional media.  The major portals such as Sina.com and NetEase also brought in the experts, collated the Internet information and offered special earthquake themes.  Tianya, MOP and other forums asked netizens to come forth and provide news stories, and this led to innumerable disaster victims to use text, photos and videos to present their situations during and after the earthquake.  Thus, they became civilian reporters. 

This was one moment in which the Internet media of China left the slow acting traditional media (such as newspapers and television) far behind.  At the same time, the civilian reporters of China joined together in an unprecedented coalition to bring the news out.  This allowed people everywhere to find out about the disaster in the first instant.  Even now, people wonder if the Chinese government made a most unusual and unprecedented move to open up information access only because the civilian reporters had made so much information available that a cover-up was impossible.

But after March 12, CCTV began 24 hours/day continuous coverage and all the reporters around the world converged to the disaster area.  The 'speed' and 'volume' of the Internet media were thoroughly outclassed.  A netizen named Li Guoqing who had not watched any television news for years now gave up the Internet and stuck to watching CCTV's live broadcast every day.  An Internet chief editor who had been contemptuous of traditional media now complained that he did not have the ability to send reporters into the disaster zone.  If his information was all second-handed, then where were the 'speed' and 'volume'?  Actually, 'mass volume' became a handicap because it is impossible to verify the information quickly enough.  In fact, they had to wait for the mainstream reporters to go in and obtain verification.

Not only were the Internet media pushed aside, but the civilian reporters that grew up with the Internet were also complaining that they could not tell whether the information that they were forwarding was true or false.  At this stage, the Internet and the civilian reporters have clearly become the supporting cast.

Subsequently, the disaster relief campaign delivered results to the victims and the worst period was over.  The Chinese government began to tighten up on the public opinion space.  But it was precisely at this moment that the Internet once again showed its power.  On the Internet, we learned about relief tents being sold on the market, a government official assaulting a volunteer worker, a police-citizen confrontation over distribution of relief materiel and so on ... at this stage, the Internet and the civilian reporters became effective again.  But on May 27, the ban on Internet opinion seemed to have cast a pall again.

The disaster relief effort is continuing and so is the news war.  But media people should think about the positions and interactions among the Internet media, civilian reporters, traditional media and the Central Publicity Department.

[in translation]

Any disaster is due to external dangers and internal weaknesses.  Certain hidden problems such as old, dilapidated school buildings or illegal coal mines become huge when the crisis arrives.  The magnitude 8 earthquake in Sichuan revealed the material poverty of the mountainous areas, and it also revealed the blind spots of understanding in Hong Kong society.  This is worthy of serious analysis and reflection.

Although Hong Kong society has organized many emergency disaster relief efforts over recent years, their response to this Sichuan earthquake still contained too much enthusiasm but not enough rationality.  When the earth shook thousands of miles away, the Hong Kong people were touched.  But the planning and execution of disaster relief require cool heads.  For example, the civilian volunteer teams showed a lack of understanding about rescue work.

The dispatch of police and emergency rescue crews to the disaster scene was absolutely laudable.  But when the celebrities and civilians want to form volunteer teams, they are not being rational.  The majority of Hong Kong people do not have knowledge of and experience in rescue work.  There is also an ample supply of people capable of physical labour over there.  Had the travel money been handed over to the development organizations instead, it would have helped the local people participate in the rescue and reconstruction operations and it would have been beneficial to the recovery of the local economy.

The earthquake revealed another social problem in the form of the innumerable Internet rumors after the earthquake.  The most bizarre are the many assertions that this earthquake had been accurately predicted beforehand.  But if you read the contents of these so-called predictive or internal documents, you will realize that they are even worse than undergraduate science reports and cannot pass any serious scrutiny.

Many friends read the one-sided presentations in these assertions and then passed along to others.  Some of these stories were even cited on television news.  Actually, if you bother to spend a few minutes to do some research through the Internet search engines, you will find many more dissenting opinions and in-depth analysis about false positive/false negative, reliability analysis, feasibility, and so on.  The rise of the rumors after the earthquake showed that the people (and even the mass media) lack the ability to comprehend professional opinions, and they can be impassioned to the point of following the trend without knowing right from wrong.

As for public opinion, the most unfortunate post-earthquake social phenomenon was the transformation of the concern for the victims into social pressure on individuals.  A student was condemned by society for her personal views and given a demerit; an internal rescuers' dinner was criticized as being disrespectful; group donations became coerced public statements of positions, even political missions.  As passions turn into unbounded critcisms, the lopsided moral judgment overrode all social values.

A society does not always go from free to totalitarian due to top-down suppression.  It can also occur due to the impetuosity of the people.  It is understandable that one feels unbounded sorrow upon seeing the devastation in the disaster zone on television.  But if the emotional catharsis turns up as verbal violence and negative labelling in public denunciation campaigns, it is of no help to the earthquake victims as well as giving up the tolerance and self-restraint of a civilized society.

The disaster that took place thousands of miles away showed that Hong Kong society lacks the calm thinking in a time of misfortune.  If such a disaster were to occur in Hong Kong, would these social weaknesses explode one hundredfold more powerfully to the point where a natural disaster becomes a manmade catastrophe?  Since it is preferable to prevent disasters beforehand than to fight them afterwards, shouldn't the people of Hong Kong take this opportunity to contemplate these hidden problems in Hong Kong society?

While the beams of school buildings should be able to withstand the quakes of tectonic plates, social rationality should also be able to the withstand the swaying of passions.  Disasters are relentless, but if the people of Hong Kong can maintain their calm in crises, we still have hope for the future.

[in translation]

In the various Sichuan jokes that are being passed around, I personally like the one about the dog: A friend said that his dog was sleeping at home when the earthquake occurred.  So he beat his dog severely the next day, because animals are supposed to foresee earthquakes.  There is even a story about a dog dragging its master forcibly out of the house.  This was a story that I had seen before.  But if someone really believes in that story and holds a grudge against his dog, then this is not funny anymore.

Stories of intelligent animals saving their masters appear frequently in urban legends.  When I was a small child, I often wished that I had a loyal dog to protect me.  Or else I could have a mouse to steal gold nuggets for me.  But I never expected them to warn me about earthquakes and that was because I once heard this story:

On May 8, 1966, there was a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in Xingtai.  At the time, there was a pig which was behaving very anxiously until it made a incredible move: it jumped out of the pigsty over a wall more than a meter high and ran into the street.  The earthquake then took place.  Everybody thought that this was a wonder pig.  Therefore, they improved the quality of food and living conditions for the pig.  They even wanted to study how the pig knew that an earthquake was coming.  In any case, people believed that the pig possessed certain mysterious powers.  If these mysterious powers can be harnessed, then people will be able to predict earthquake themselves.  Even if such powers don't exist, they can at least study how the pig can jump so high.

Several days later on March 22, there was a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Xingtai.  This time, the pig did not react at all.  Instead, it slept like a pig in the pig sty.  That is to say, it was snoring sweetly just like real pigs do.  Therefore, the attempt to use the pig to predict earthquake was a failure.  I don't know why happened to that poor animal.  Was it turned into breakfast ham for the researchers while they continued to conduct research?

I was quite young then, but I quickly understood the point about this story:  Something that cannot be replicated is not true.

Perhaps there were many loyal dogs and wonder pigs performing miraculous acts during the earthquake.  But most animals are not like that.  These miraculous examples cannot explain anything.  At most, it is the case that some people are nice and lucky and they happen to have good dogs and pigs, such that these miracles occurred.  Conversely, if the animals were really prescient, then these stories would not be spread by word of mouth.  When dogs and pigs can predict earthquake, that would be the same as saying that roosters crow and cats catch mice.  This is too ordinary and not worthy of mention.

That dog that was viciously beaten by the master was innocent.  The problem lies not with the dog, but with the master believing in the wrong thing and expecting the dog to do the impossible.  Afterwards, the master refused to reflect on why he treated a legend as reality.  This is like reading the numerous stories about lottery winners in the newspapers and thinking that it is easy to win.  But when you purchased a lottery ticket and failed even to win a minor prize, you go and beat the lottery ticket vendor viciously.

As for those people who are interested in "abnormal phenomena" as indicators of impending earthquakes, I hope that they don't have any dogs.  It is a tragedy to be their dogs, just as it is a tragedy to be the citizens of the same nation with them ...

On page 6 of <Henan Daily>, there was a commentary titled <The moment that brings people together>.  The article included slogans such as "Go, China!" "May the motherland suffer ten thousand deaths" and "Hang on, Wenchuan!"  Of course, the intent was not to wish ten thousand deaths on the motherland.  Rather this was a typographic mistake for writing "May the motherland suffer ten thousand deaths 祖国万死" instead of the customary "May the motherland live ten thousand years 祖国万岁".  The provincial publicity department is conducting an thorough investigation.


Chen Shui-bian may no longer be president of Taiwan after May 20, but his daughter Chen Hsin-yu continued to be pursued by the paparazzi.  They even got a photo of her driving through a red light.  Yesterday, Chen Hsin-yu lost her cool in front of the reporters and let loose a tirade: "Was there any need to follow me every day after May 20?  Follow me to work every day? ... What did I do wrong?  Are you going to let me go only when I am dead?"

Her parents are criminal suspects and her husband is in jail.  So the dentist Chen Hsin-yu has been mentally stressed for a while.  Earlier the Taiwan media trailed her to the bakery and filmed her going through the red light.  Yesterday, Chen Hsin-yu was followed again by the media and she blew her top: "I went through the red light in order to shake off the reporters.  You can issue a fine on me.  There is no need to follow me around everyday!  When I go to buy bread, you follow me!  When I went through the red light, I realized that I was entrapped!  I made a big mistake!  But at that moment, I could not stand it anymore!" "Why did I do wrong?  My father is no longer the president!  Why don't you follow Ma Wei-chung (note: the eldest daughter of President Ma Ying-jeou) instead?

Video Link: 陳幸妤闖紅燈後還生氣發飆呢  Youku

Government Official Injured Volunteer Worker

On the afternoon of May 20, Sichuan provincial Department of Health workers came to inspect the Changgang Hospital in Jiangyou.  At the time, the hospital was organizing volunteer workers to disinfect the place.  Due to a malfunction in the spraying machine, the volunteers were just spraying the disinfectant by hand.  During this process, a Department of Health vehicle passed closely to a volunteer, who poured some disinfectant into the car through the open window and onto the body of a senior official.  That official got out of the car angrily and gave the volunteer a big slap in the face while cursing: "Are you hospital peole blind?  Are you blind? ..."  Then an aide got some mineral water for the senior official to wash off the disinfectant.  The government people then left stone-faced without conducting the inspection.

The volunteer was a small 17-year-old boy from Anhui.  Afterwards, he went to get a medical examination.  The doctor found out that the ear drum was bleeding, with the possibility of loss of hearing.  The volunteer who did not cry not matter how hard the work had been was now crying: "I was careless.  But even if I was wrong, I did not deserve to be hit.

So let us jumpstart the human flesh search engines and track down this government official.  We want him to account for himself and apologize to that volunteer worker.  At the time he was in a green Honda Camry with license plate number Sichuan B26931.  He was accompanied by the Mianyang city department of health director named Qin. 

Subsequently, the human flesh search engines turned up the following Sichuan provincial Rural Health Administration director Ma Bugang:

A clarification from a third party only made people more certain that there was an ongoing cover-up:

On May 19-20, Comrade Ma Bugang was supervising disease control in Guangyuan city.  He arrived on the evening of May 19 and went into the front lines of the disaster zone.  He listened to verbal reports, he read the relevant documents and he went to inspect for himself.  On the morning of May 20, Comrade Ma Bugang proceeded to Qingchuan county.  On the afternoon of May 20, he arrived at Zhuyuan town, Malou town, Muyu town and other points in Qingchuan county.  He made inspection of the local disease control, monitoring and health education programs.  He received good reviews from the local masses.

The above post drew this follow-up within minutes:

Human dreg!  This sock puppet is probably some department worker who is licking the asshole of this human dreg!  Do you think that you can suck up to the man by saying a few words for him?  Do you think all Chengdu people are idiots?  You piece of trash ...


On May 26, 2008, Sichuan provincial Department of Health director Shen Ji addressed a press conference in which he said with pain to netizens that the recent Internet story about a Sichuan provincial Department of Health officials assaulting a volunteer worker in the disaster zone is an absolute rumor.  Director Shen urged the media and the websites not to do things that hurt the frontline rescue crew and cadres.

On May 26, 2008, there is a statement from Ma Bugang:

Dear netizen friends,

I am Comrade Ma Bugang, director of the Department of Health, Sichuan province.

Through the arrangement of the Sichuan province May 12 earthquake relief command center, I went to Guangyuan city to direct the disaster relief on May 19, 2008.  Since May 19, I have been with the comrades of the Guangyuan city health departments in Muyu, Guanzhuang and other towns in Qingchuan.  During this period, there were repeated aftershocks in Qingchuan, but I stayed at my post regardless of the personal safety risks.  Recently, there were Internet rumors that I had assaulted a volunteer worker in Jiangyou town, Mianyang city.  This is a totally false rumor.  At a time when the nation is united on disaster relief, it sends a chill through my heart to observe such a rumor.  It also sends a chill through all the comrades who are on the front lines with me.

At the moment, the organization is investigating this matter as well as tracking down the source of the rumor.  I ask you not to believe in this rumor, not to comment and not to cross-post it elsewhere.  Since aftershocks are still occurring in Guangyuan and medical help and disease prevention are vital tasks, we need to stay united and see this through.  We should be doing something truly meaningful for the people in the disaster zone.

The dynamics is simple to see.  Some government official had transgressed.  Who is it?  A senior provincial official is being fingered on the Internet.  All denials from him or others are useless.  It is up to the government to produce that transgressor.  Here is the official government response on May 26, 2008 (Sichuan Department of Health):

The party organization at the Sichuan provincial Department of Health paid a high degree of attention to the assault case at the Changgang Hospital at Jiangyou.  At the request of director Shen Ji, the department conducted further investigation on May 25 about the incident.  It was determined that at around 11am on May 21, Sichuan provincial Department of Health worker Zhang Jianxin went to conduct work at the Changgang Hospital in Jiangyou city whereupon a volunteer named Lin sprayed disinfectant on his head and face.  The pain from the disinfectant in his eye caused Zhang to engage in the improper behavior of assaulting Lin ... Comrade Zhang Jianxin is deeply sorry about his behavior and has written a letter of apology to Lin.  He expresses his sincere apology and shame and he is willing to apologize to Lin in person.

Or is Zhang Jianxin a sacrificial lamb?

"Everybody please pay attention!  There are many Internet special agents spreading rumors that are harmful to the earthquake relief effort.  Please distinguish truth from lies and not be tricked by them.  Here are some special characteristics of the earthquake rumors ...  We strongly urge the establishment of a case squad to deal with the Internet special agents and to help you uncover and detect these Internet special agents!"

... "Internet special agent" is abbreviated as "net spy" (WT).  The earthquake-related net spy refers mainly to professional Internet users who are engaged in spreading rumors, creating confusion among people, attacking the state effort in disaster relief and inciting people to attack each other.  When that particular Internet post appeared, many netizens sent in their approval and some offered the stages and characteristics of "net spies":  "In stage 1, they attack the government for failing to issue a pre-earthquake warning and thus inflame the passions of the people; in stage 2, they attacked the army for failing to show up quicker and thus turn public opinion against the rescue effort; in stage 3, they spread rumors about environmental contamination and earthquake aftershocks to scare people and disrupt the effort to organize support for the relief work; in stage 4, they pretend to be disaster victims and attack the rescuers for being ineffective in their work ... " In addition, some netizens even predicted a new direction for the "net spies": they will be accusing the charitable organizations of corruption and they will harp about the post-disaster reconstruction.

"The action to rout the net spies" has many supporters in the earthquake-related forums on the Internet.  They are also present at the various sports and lifestyle forums, because people are presently concerned about the issues surrounding the earthquake. ...

At the same time, the so-called "net spies" and the "fake net spies" are articulating their own voices.  In one post titled "Cheers to the critics during a time of national crisis," a netizen wrote:  "There has been a very dreadful atmosphere, namely the idea that one must not voice any criticism during a time of national crisis.  Criticism is being treated as sabotaging the disaster relief effort and the critics are treated as net spies.  So what if one makes a few criticisms?  Isn't this mobilizing the forces outside the disaster relief?  Is society going to progress because the net spies have been swept out?"

In addition, some netizens enumerated the rashness of the original Internet post warning about net spies: "There have been some aftershocks and there may be more.  The threat of water contamination persists.  It is a good thing to remind people of these be.  There will be some corruption around the relief materials.  There will be people trying to make money off this disaster.  Therefore, monitoring is necessary." "Everybody is being unfair to the 'net spies.'  When everybody stays alert, we will know what is right or wrong.  It is precisely during a time of national crisis that we need to hear criticisms.  Progress occurs only with criticisms!"

An observer said that the battle over "net spies" showed the concern of the people about the earthquake.  At the same time, the netizens are rationally reflecting.  The writings spread over the BBS's may affect public opinions in the short run, and certain negative information may prove to be shocking to netizens.  But in the long run, the availability of diverse information will make the netizens become more mature and better able to withstand crises.

May 12, 5:10.  Dawn in Qingchuan

14:29. Landslide caused by earthquake
at Meihua Mountain, Qingchuan county, Guangyuan city

14:30.  Qingchuan Cultural Museum

14:36.  Qingchuan Cultural Museum

14:39.  View from the top floor of the Xinhua Bookstore in Qingchuan

14:41.  Citizens out in the street to stay away from harm's way

14:54.  Citizens organize their own rescue work.

15:05.  Extricating a trapped person

15:06.  76-year-old woman being carried to safety by citizen

15:18:  Students and teachers in front of the Qingchuan Middle School

15:30.  A partially collapsed five-story building

15:52.  A patient being lowered to safety
at Qingchuan Chinese Medicine Hospital

15:53.  Young girl lowered safely to lower floor

15:58.  Mother dies with her child in her arms under bricks and concrete

16:12.  First post-disaster medical area set up on the plaza outside the
Qingchuan County Hospital

16:16.  The first medical treatment area in Qingchuan County

16:31.  The roof of the Qingchuan County Chinese Medicine Hospital has
shifted outside precariously

16:36.  The first professional team of rescuers enter the rescue

16:54.  First batch of emergency medical supplies arrive.

During the Sichuan earthquake, the classroom building at Fuxin Number Two Elementary School in Wufu town, Mianzhu city collapsed, leading to the deaths of 127 school children.

Yesterday morning at around 10am, the parents of the deceased school children went to meet with the Deyang city party committee.  In the procession, the parents walked silently with portraits of their lost children.  They sobbed, but no tears came out of their eyes.  "My tears have run dried," said one mother.  Ever since the tragegy occurred, they have held service on the ruins of Fuxin Number Two Elementary School (see Natural Disaster, Human Faults).  They were waiting for an answer to their concerns about the quality of the classroom building.

Mianzhu city party secretary Jiang Guohua pleaded with these parents not to walk to Deyang.  When the group reached the Mianzhu Central Plaza, Jiang Guohua suddenly knelt before the group and asked them not to go any further.  "Please trust that the Mianzhu city party committee can solve this problem.  Please go any further!" But the parents ignored him.  Finally, Jiang got up and continued to follow the group.  Jiang told the Southern Metropolis Daily reporter that the local government has sent out an investigation team.

When the group reached  Dacheng Village, Deyang city sent four buses to pick up the parents to meet with the Deyang City Executive Vice-Mayor Zhang Jinming.  At 420pm, inside the conference room, the parents sat down to listen to the government response.  Suddenly, the floor began to move in a wave-like motion with a strong vibration.  This was the magnitude 6.4 aftershock centered at Qingchuan.  The conference attendees were quickly evacuated onto the basketball court in the open space.

There on the basketball court, Zhang Jinming used a megaphone to inform the parents that the Deyang party committee has organized an investigation team led by the Deyang City Party Disciplinary COmmittee secretary about the manmade factors such as the quality of the Fuxin Number Two Elementary School classroom and building.  So far, they have obtained the project blueprints, the quality acceptance documents as well as safety inspection documents.

A parent spoke about how the investigation team had unknown 'experts' and lacked trustworthiness.  Zhang Jinming said that the list of Sichuan architectural experts will be disclosed and that the parents can elect three of their own to serve on the team alongside the experts

The parents asked about what would happen if the investigation found that local government officials were implicated in manmade problems.  Zhang Jinking, "We put them on trial!"

Q1. How do you see the Communist Party?
Some things could be better, but its role in China can’t be replaced at the present. I support the Communist Party. (+1)

Q2. How do you see the Chinese government?
Some things are done poorly, but things are changing, and we should look forward. (+1)

Q3. How would you evaluate the government’s method of using force to repress the 6/4 incident?
Regardless of the situation, using military force on students and average civilians is simply a mistake. (-1)

Q4. How would you evaluate the government and students role in 6/4?
The government and students all made mistakes. The government’s self-contradictory actions led to an unmanageable situation, and they made the bigger mistake. (-1)

Q5. How would you evaluate Mao Zedong?
Violent emperor, the shame of all Chinese. (-3)

Q6. How do you perceive the United States of America?
America is a strong country, but I don’t have too many good feelings towards it; many of its glories are fake and inflated. (+1)

Q7. What do you think US foreign policy is?
At heart, US foreign policy is motivated by its own interests. The values it claims to export aren’t what they appear to be. (+1)

Q8. How do you see the Taiwan problem?
Taiwan is the pride of all Chinese; hopefully Taiwan can reunify China as a democracy. (-3)

Q9. How do you see the democracy question, when it comes to China?
From a long term view, the Chinese people needs democracy to restrain the governments’ power. But this is an issue for the Chinese people, and has nothing to do with the West. (+0)

Q10. How do you perceive the speech and reporting done by the Southern Metropolis media group?  (editor’s note: Crusading newspaper + magazine in Guangzhou that both critics and supporters are willing to call China’s CNN, but for very different reasons. Accused of being overly critical in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake)
A10. In this environment of heavy suppression from above, a media outlet that only dares to touch sensitive subjects, is still being assaulted by some people. (-3)

Q11. How do you see the Carrefour boycott?
Brain-dead action. Our priority now shouldn’t be boycotting Japanese or French goods, but rather “idiotic” goods (editor’s note: referring to nationalism). (-3)

Q12. How do you see the role of international rescue squads in the Sichuan earthquake?
After they finally came, they weren’t very useful; just a foreign policy move. (+1)

Q13. How do you see the proposed “nationalization” of the military?  (editor’s note: The People’s Liberation Army is currently under the direct control and leadership of the Communist Party; some have discussed making it a non-political force that serves a “civilian” government directly. Similar to Taiwan’s situation up until a few years ago.)
Should have done this long ago. The Communist Party’s iron-grip on the military is a clear indication of its bloody nature. (-3)

Q14. How do you see the Cultural Revolution?
The damage left by the Cultural Revolution runs deep and far. Just like Germans collectively considered and faced up to their guilt under the Nazi Regime, all Chinese should do the same with their roles. (-3)

II.1 What kind of labels have been attached to you (during online discussions)?
Basically everyone accuses me of posting for money. (Multiply your score by 1.2)

II.2 How do you see those who disagree with you?
I disagree with their arguments, but I will defend their right to speak them.  (Multiply your score by 0.9)

My final score was -14.0.

What does that mean?  I don't know and frankly I don't care.

I look at the point of this exercise as not so much as recognizing oneself as 'old, middle or young general.'  Rather, the point is to recognize that the Chinese are not brain-dead, brain-washed zombies who only obey their Zhongnanhai masters' wishes.  On each and every of these various issues, there is substantial differences in opinion among the Chinese people.  But the Chinese people do share one thing in common -- when you say "The Chinese people think blah blah blah on this issue," you will necessarily have alienated that significant portion of the Chinese population who think the contrary because they will write you off as a fool.

During a recent Hong Kong radio talk show on which I was a guest, a renowned media commentator spoke about the overseas Chinese demonstrations over the biased western media coverage of China (before the Sichuan earthquake).  He said that this was a huge mistake because the American government must now know which Chinese Americans and Chinese students are potential national security risks if China and USA should ever go to war.  So which side would a Chinese American take in the event of war?

As a Chinese American, I should think that this is an absurd choice.  I will not choose between China and the USA because they are China and the USA.  I will choose because of what is right and wrong.  China is not always right or always wrong, and neither is the USA.  My choice will not be made because it is China or the USA.

What do I mean?  Here are some hypothetical situations.

If the USA goes to war with China over Tibet, for the purpose of creating a Greater Tibet including parts of Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan and Guzhou provinces from which all non-Tibetans shall be ethnically cleansed (that is, forced to march out on their feet to the 'Han' territories with only that which they can carry on their backs), then I will be against the USA (and therefore for China).

If China goes to war with the USA over Taiwan, for the purpose of armed liberation and actually deployed nuclear weapons against major population centers in order to force a surrender, then I will be against China (and therefore for the USA).

How can it be otherwise?  Why would I give up my right to choose between right and wrong for the sake of something known as nationalism/patriotism?  How can I be automatically for either China or the USA before knowing the specific issues?  For a Chinese American who has both Chinese and American values, the whole point is to transcend particularistic values and look at universal values of right versus wrong.  Get it?

(cn.reuters.com)  The Personal Experiences of a Reuters reporter in the disaster area: Impressions of Chengdu and Dujiangyan.  Ben Blanchard.  May 23, 2008.

[translated from Chinese]

After the great Sichuan earthquake took place on May 12, I was one of the earliest foreign correspondents to arrive at the disaster area.

My first impression upon arriving in Chengdu was that everything was normal, and that was just 12 hours after the earthquake occurred.  At the time, I was thinking that the damage was not that severe.  But two hours later, as I travelled towards the heavily damaged Dujiangyan, I realized how terrible the situation was.

Dujiangyan appeared to have been baptised by war.  None of the buildings were spared.  Some of them had one face collapsed, others have multiple cracks while still others were totally reduced to rubble on the ground as if a giant had stomped a foot on them from above.

The survivors were standing around in a daze, or huddled inside the tends, buses and cars to stay out of the rain.  The drizzling rain gave this tearful scene an additional layer of sorrow, which was moving and tragic to the bone.

We heard that a school in the city had collapsed.  It was not difficult to find the location -- anyone could give us the direction.  As we walked down the street, we saw the corpses of the victims lying on the street.  I thought that I was mentally and physically prepared to deal with what happened next.  I was wrong.

The policemen and soldiers had already set up a police line to prevent the overly excited parents from trying to find their children by themselves.

During my several days of work in Dujiangyan, I never used any direct quotations from the parents of deceased children.  It pained me too much to speak to them.  I attempted to pose some questions to them.  But each time, I was afraid that I would break out in tears so I had to turn my head away.  I am ashamed that I was unable to accomplish the mission that I came here for -- to report.

Over the next few days, the love displayed by the people of Chengdu and elsewhere impressed me deeply.  In a refugee camp in a sports arena in Mianyang, I saw an endless stream of volunteers bringing what they felt could help the refufees.  A woman living next to the sports arena brought a big pot of congee everyday by tricycle to everyone in need.  "I must help them," she told me.

Other people carried bags of clothing, mineral water and instant noodles here.  A volunteer thought that I looked very "stressed" and handed me a bottle of water.  I was touched by his offer, but I had to turn it down because the survivors needed water more than I do.

Over the past few months, China was pepppered with certain negative criticisms -- especially the Free Tibet issue and the various malicious disruptions during the Olympic torch relay.  It is hard so say what the "global opinion" will be after the earthquake.  I should think that the endlessly rattling condemnations will stop, at least temporarily.

(Reuters)  At quake epicenter, they fed me noodles.  Erma Graham-Harrison.  May 22, 2008.

An aftershock jolted me awake with the thuds of collapsing buildings. We were sleeping in a tent far from the tottering remains of Yangzi but still, it was a long time before my heart stopped racing.

A stream of dirty, red-eyed refugees had staggered along the river bank the previous evening as, after more than eight hours of walking and hitch-hiking along a buckled, broken road, we made it to the epicenter of China's deadliest quake in decades.

Someone who was leaving handed me a spare gauze square as a face mask: I gratefully tied it over my mouth and nose.

It was meant as a barrier against disease, asbestos from collapsed buildings and the smell of rotting corpses, in a city where officials say nearly 80 percent of residents may have died.

Helicopters roared in and out, flinging dust over the wounded who waited under dirty quilts with mangled arms and legs, to be carried away from the wreckage of their lives and families.

Behind them all, where Yingxiu once stood, were snarled piles of concrete and metal, rows of the dead lying in the streets just meters from makeshift refugee camps, and what looked like a grotesque experiment in engineering.

Fewer than half the town's buildings were standing and almost none was upright. Some leaned forward or back, others tipped at 45 degrees to the ground, supported by piles of rubble, their doors and windows opening to the sky.

I went looking for the primary school, which residents said collapsed like tens of others in the quake zone.

Finding anything is difficult in a town stripped of its buildings and with streets buried in rubble. When survivors pointed vaguely "over there", it left me no clearer but with no landmarks, I wasn't sure what more to ask.

Eventually I found someone to guide me, who -- without my asking -- pointed out trapped corpses in ruins along the way. I wondered if he had led other journalists there.

Did he find us ghoulish, flocking to the scene to unearth tragedies while others uncovered survivors?

In the school courtyard, bodies were lined up in untidy rows beside the national flagpole. What was left of Yingxiu's government had decided there was nowhere safe to bury the bodies and banned parents from taking them away.

Most were covered, but two small feet were left sticking out from beneath one tarpaulin.

I tried to count the dead. Two soldiers arrived with the spraying kits that small-scale Chinese farmers use to apply pesticide to their crops and started walking up and down, showering the small bodies with disinfectant.

As it dripped slowly down the soles of the young boy's feet, I found I was crying and turned away in shame from the grieving mothers nearby. 

My normal world was less than 40 km (25 miles) away, but it seemed impossibly distant.

I had come with three Chinese photographers from Dujiangyan. It had been badly hit but was still accessible by road and was bustling with rescue efforts as cash, aid and experts poured in.

Still, the scale of the disaster was so vast that even there I had watched desperate searchers, unable to find firefighters or soldiers to help, bury a neighbor's family deeper in debris as they tried to reach their own loved ones.

So I wanted to know what help was reaching those at the mountainous, remote epicenter. But as the damaged road to Yingxiu snaked out of mobile phone coverage, through tunnels and over precipitous landslides, I wondered if I was wise to come.

We walked for hours under a harsh sun while injured and shaken refugees streamed in the opposite direction, towards shelter and safety. The only glimmer of comfort was the generosity and courage of the survivors.

Some ferried the weak and injured on motorbikes down still-passable stretches of road; one farmer spent her day boiling clean water for anyone who needed it.

In Yingxiu, people who had lost everything kept trying to press food and water on me. One old woman mourning her foster daughter had -- unbeknown to me -- told her husband to prepare me a bowl of noodles while I was interviewing her.

When he brought it over, I tried hard to refuse. Guilt about eating refugees' food was the last emotion I wanted to add to the mix that often threatened to engulf me.

But they were so insistent -- and worried I was rejecting the food because I thought it was dirty -- I felt I had no choice.

I wolfed the noodles down, embarrassed but grateful after 24 hours of biscuits and peanuts. I gave them some money in return, although there was nothing to buy and no one to buy it from.


Sichuan Provincial Government Information Office director Hou Xiongfei said that people in Luojiang county, Deyang City had reported that the employee Wang Yadong at the armed forces' militia police training base had taken soft drinks, "eight treasure" congee, instant noodles and other relief material to his girlfiend's shop for sale.  Wang Yayong has been detained for suspected criminal activities and the base administrator has been relieved of his duties.

(Ming Pao)

Yesterday, the Ming Pao reporter visited the Kekesi children clothing store in Laobei Street, Luojiang county.  The store has been locked up by the police.  When the neighbors learned that there was a reporter present, they came over to curse the offenders for being "ethical" and deserved to have the store closed down.  They said that the store owner affected the image of the Sichuan people negatively.  "The disaster relief materiel was donated by kind-hearted people and should be sent to the most needy place.  Once they do this here, who is going to donate anything more?"

A citizen showed the reporter what he recorded with mobile camphone on the night of the incident.  He said that a student was using a mobile camphone to film the police.  The police were unhappy and clashed with the student.  This was like pouring fire on oil for the already hostile citizens.

(Taipei Times)  Why are we sending aid to China?  Michael Cole.  May 23, 2008.

Every time a natural or man-made catastrophe strikes, human compassion results in an outpouring of aid, including medical assistance and money for support operations and reconstruction. At such times, political differences can be cast aside.  Such generous responses to suffering are noble indeed, but as laudable as that reflex may be, the result might not be the one that is intended.

... The case of the Sichuan earthquake provides an even starker justification for why donor countries should refrain from giving money, and this is particularly the case for Taiwan, which, with NT$2 billion (US$65 million) set aside, quickly became one of the top contributors of aid, both monetary and medical. The reflex to give to victims and their families is natural and worthy. But unlike Myanmar, the central government in Beijing, with the world’s biggest foreign reserves and a booming economy, has more than enough money to provide for its people, including those made destitute by natural disaster.

If the infrastructure in Sichuan Province did not meet safety standards — and the uneven pattern of devastation in certain towns suggests this — then this was not the result of empty government coffers, but rather an unequal distribution of wealth. In this regard, China is faring quite badly, as its Gini coefficient (a measure of a state’s domestic inequality, with zero meaning perfect equality and 100 perfect inequality) of 46.9 — and growing — shows us.

Given the assessment of financial analysts that, despite the devastation, the damage to China’s economy will be minimal — the booming centers in the province were largely spared by the earthquake — Beijing will have little incentive to make financial investments in the region on a scale that would ensure a catastrophe of this avoidable magnitude does not happen again. Rather, the money for ordinary Chinese who really need it will come from donor countries, including Taiwan.

The irony in Taiwan donating cash for reconstruction in Sichuan lies in the fact that a good part of Beijing’s military budget, estimated at US$46 billion this year and growing at a rate of 17.6 percent, goes toward the deployment and modernization of weapons and forces that threaten Taiwan. It would be interesting to see how many schools, hospitals and apartment complexes in Sichuan could be rebuilt, or orphans cared for, with the money that Beijing spends annually on the deployment of the more than 1,000 missiles it aims at Taiwan, including their maintenance, the research and development that has gone into making the missiles more accurate, the logistics and troops that are involved in targeting processes and the large-scale, annual military exercises simulating an invasion of Taiwan.

In spite of this very real threat, Taiwan has promised millions of dollars in aid, and Taiwanese, who will be on the receiving end should those missiles be launched, are wiring money or giving to aid organizations appearing on street corners or in appeals on TV.

They are well-meaning, but they are also fortifying a regime that not only continues to fail to meet the needs of its citizens, but also threatens citizens of other countries.

Taiwanese can help those in need in Sichuan Province. But that help should come in the form of expertise, not money.

Giving the latter hurts not only Chinese in the lowest economic strata who should be getting more out of their powerhouse economy, but also Taiwanese themselves.

(TVBS)  (879 persons age 20 or above interviewed by telephone on May 15, 2008 in Taiwan)

Q1.  There was a great earthquake in Sichuan and our government intends to solicit donations of NT$ 1.2 billlion along with our own government's NT$ 0.8 billion in money and materials for a total of NT$2 billion.  Do you approve or disapprove this donation plan?
21%: Very much agree
38%: Somewhat agree
16%: Somewhat disagree
10%: Very much disagree
16%: No opinion

[By party affiliation:
Total population: 59% agree, 26% disagree
Democratic Progressive Party: 53% agree, 31% disagree
Kuomintang: 69% agree, 24% disagree
Independents: 54% agree, 26% disagree]


Recently, Chinese netizens claimed the US Geological Survey issued predictions that "there will be strong earthquakes of magnitude 7 or higher in Xian city (Shaanxi province) and Tianshui city (Gansu province) within the next two weeks."


Q1:A news was spreaded popularly in Chinese public and was said to be a USGS forecast. The whole content is: The epicentre of Sichuan Wenchuan Earthquake is transfering to northeast direction, the earth's crust has appeared large-scale and continuous cracking, the epicentre is extending to Xi'an, and the rough extending direction is between Tianshui and Xi'an. In the future two weeks, strong shocks up to magnitude-7 may continuously happen in Tianshui, Xi'an and some area of Gansu Province. Local citizens should keep alert of that in advance. (this link http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Maps/10/105_30.php was attached to the news)

Did USGS ever forecasted above news? What did USGS forecast on the aftershocks of Sichuan Wenchuan earthquake in fact?

Q2: Some Chinese professionals said to the public that earthquake can not be forecasted. Their reasons are: the course of earthquake is very complicated; the deep part of earth crust can not be entered into; little probability of earthquake occurrence.

What's your opinion on above views? Do you think earthquake can be forecasted or not?


   Thank you for your question, which is appended below. You may forward my response to anyone, and you may forward my response to the news agency that wrote the report which you sent to me.
    The USGS does not make earthquake predictions. The reports of USGS predictions are completely false.

    Please look at:
    When the May 12 main shock occurred, a 300-km-long section of the fault (probably the Longmenshan fault) slipped, taking about 2 minutes for the entire fault to slip. Figure 4 shows a map of the slipped region of the fault (the colors show the amount of slip). As you can see, the slipped area extended about 250 km NE from the epicenter (the place where the slipping started).
    Aftershocks usually occur on or near the part of the fault that slipped in the main shock. The link that appeared with the news report:
    shows a map of the aftershocks of the May 12 main shock. If you compare Figure 4 and the aftershock map, you can see that the aftershocks of the May 12 earthquake are located very close to the part of the fault that slipped in the main shock. This is the usual behavior of most earthquakes’ aftershocks.
    The news statement, “The epicentre of Sichuan Wenchuan Earthquake is transfering to northeast direction, ... the epicentre is extending to Xi'an, and the rough extending direction is between Tianshui and Xi'an.“ is an incorrect interpretation of the aftershock distribution (if ‘transferring’ and ‘extending’ imply a change from day to day.) It misinterprets the northeast orientation of the aftershock zone to imply motion of the aftershocks toward Xian. The aftershocks are not moving anywhere. They are staying close to the slipped area of the main shock. The northeast orientation of the aftershock zone is caused by the northeast orientation of the slipped zone in the main shock.    
    There is no scientific basis for the news statement, “In the future two weeks, strong shocks above 7 level may continuously happen in Tianshui, Xi'an and some area of Gansu Province.“ Xian and Tianshui are far from the aftershock zone, and it is very unlikely that the May 12 main shock will cause big earthquakes near Xian or Tianshui. The USGS did not predict any such earthquakes.     
    There have been many aftershocks following the Sichuan earthquake and these will surely continue in the coming months. Their epicenters will probably remain close to the slipped part of the main shock fault. The largest aftershocks until now have been in the magnitude-6 range, and aftershocks for such a large main shock can possibly range up to magnitude-7, but we cannot predict the time and location of future aftershocks.    
    The news statement, “the earth's crust has appeared large-scale and continuous cracking“ might refer to the appearance of ground cracking caused by the main shock, which is common after large earthquakes, but I do not personally know of any cracking. When faults slip, they crack the ground. Ground cracks extended about 350km along the Kunlunshan, Qinghai, China earthquake fault during the November 2001 earthquake.     
    USGS and other scientists are examining whether the magnitude-7.9 earthquake transferred stress onto other major active faults in the region, and whether those other faults may have been brought closer to failure, but that research is very uncertain and that research does not make any prediction of earthquake occurrence times.    
    The Chinese State Seismological Bureau has broadcast a strongly worded statement refuting rumored earthquake predictions. The statement quoted in this London Times Online article:
    The quoted excerpt is: "Any 'prediction' of an earthquake at a certain time and in a certain place is certainly a rumour. Because currently in the world the level of earthquake prediction is impossible to achieve this kind of accuracy."   
    The USGS agrees with this statement.     
    Regards, and condolences for your great nation’s great loss,
    Paul Spudich, Ph. D.

Deyang city is is one of the severe earthquake disaster regions of Sichuan.  On the day before yesterday, which was the third of three days of national mourning in China, a truck stopped in front of a store to unload a lot of material such as ham sausage, "eight treasure" congee, instant noodles, bottled water, etc.  The citizens believed that there were disaster relief material.  Amidst the questioning from the citizens, the truck left without completing the unloading.  The citizens dialled 110 to summon the police.  When the police came, a military jeep without license plate arrived and its passengers identified themselves as from the county armed forces.  The passengers then attempted to move the material that had been previously unloaded from the truck onto the jeep.  The citizens rushed up and blocked the passage of the jeep.  Through word of mouth, many more citizens came to the scene to surround the store and the jeep.  The jeep was able to leave under police protection.  But the crowd laid seige to the store.

According to eyewitnesses, the crowd demanded an explanation from the authorities.  The police forcibly entered the store which had closed it doors to the cheer of the crowd.  The crowd saw a huge amount of material inside the store.  The store owner was then taken away by the police.

Meanwhile, other people spotted the truck entering the police station.  They believed that there was an attempt to destroy the evidence.  Government officials and numerous policemen showed up to explain to the crowd in the hope of calming them.  But words were useless.  A large group of people walked behind those officials and chanted anti-corruption slogans.  This drew more citizens into their ranks.

According to eyewitnesses, the crowd reached an intersection whereupon one government official got hit.  The spectators cheers, "Good job!"  Chaos then broke out.  Someone hit the deputy public security bureau director on the head with a wine bottle, causing bleeding.  Dozens of policemen charged in to rescue their deputy director.  The fight then turned into a mass melee.  Several car loads of armed policemen arrived from Deyang city.  But they stood guard on the periphery because they did not want to act rashly.  Finally, the government officials retreated slowly towards the government building under police protection.

When night came, several thousand citizens smashed a police car.  Finally, a government officials came out and promised the citizens that there were will be a full investigation and the people will be given a full explanation.  The crowd slowly dissipated into the night afterwards.

Luojiang county public security bureau deputy director Yan Chongping confirmed to the Ming Pao reporter that there was indeed a mass assembly on the day before yesterday.  The people did not know the truth and this caused some chaos.  Yan said that he was injured and is presently being treated at the hospital.

Yan said that he led many police officers to the scene as soon as he receipted the report.  There were many people gathered there and they were noisy.  As police officers, their duty was to maintain order.  At first, they wanted to disperse the crowd in order to avoid a stampeded.  During the process, seven or eight young man hit on his head and back with chairs and caused him to bleed in the head.  The crowd also smashed a police car.  Yan Chongping staked his personal reputation that the police "did not retaliate when hit 打不還手."  He also said that not a single citizen was injured.

Here is the accompanying photograph in the Ming Pao report.  This man is a citizen.

Q1. Are you concerned about the Sichuan earthquake?
  0.6%: Not concerned
34.6%: Somewhat concerned
64.6%: Very concerned
  0.2%: Don't know/hard to say

Q2. Have you donated money for Sichuan earthquake relief?
  3.5%: No
11.8%: Intend to donate
84.6%: Yes
  0.1%: Don'tknow/hard to say

Q3. Overall, are you satisfied with the performance of the central government in the Sichuan earthquake relief?
  0.4%: Not satisfied
13.9%: So-so
85.1%: Satisfied
  0.7%: Don't know/hard to say

Q4. Overall, are you satisfied with the performance of the People's Liberation Army in earthquake relief?
  0.5%: Not satisfied
  9.0%: So-so
88.7%: Satisfied
  1.8%: Don't know/hard to say

Q5. Overall, do you trust the central government?
  2.2%: Don't trust
23.8%: So-so
72.3%: Trust
  1.8%: Don't know/hard to say
[Note: In April 2008, the same question drew 47.6% for trust; in October 2007, it was 49.4%]
Q7. Did the Sichuan earthquake increase your trust in the central government?
  9.5%: Did not increase
49.0%: Increase a little bit
39.9%: Increase a lot
  1.5%: Don't know/hard to say

Q8. Overall, how do you feel towards the mainland Chinese people?
  0.4%: No feelings whatsoever
  8.7%: Not a lot of feelings
61.8%: Have some feelings
27.8%: Have a lot of feelings
  1.8%: Don't know/hard to say

Q9. Did the Sichuan earthquake increase your feelings towards the mainland Chinese people?
  9.9%: Did not increase
49.5%: Increased a bit
39.2%: Increased a lot
  1.4%: Don't know/hard to say

Q10. With respect to your identity, would you say that you are more Hong Kong person or Chinese person?
28.1%: Hong Kong person
55.9%: Chinese person
13.2%: Both
  0.5%: Neither
  2.3%: Don't know/hard to say
[Note: In April 2008, it was 51.5% Hong Kong person and 37.4% Chinese person.  In October 2007, it was 51.7% Hong Kong person and 35.9% Chinese person.]

(National Geographic News)  Study Warned of China Quake Risk Nearly A Year Ago.  Kevin Holden Platt.  May 16, 2008.

Just ten months before a deadly earthquake struck Sichuan Province's Beichuan county on May 12, a scientific study warned that the Chinese region was ripe for a major quake.  After examining satellite images and conducting on-the-ground inspections of deep, active faults in Sichuan Province for more than a decade, scientists issued a warning.

"The faults are sufficiently long to sustain a strong ground-shaking earthquake, making them potentially serious sources of regional seismic hazard," the Chinese, European, and U.S. geoscientists wrote in the mid-July 2007 edition of the journal Tectonics.  They concluded that clashing tectonic forces were growing in Beichuan, ready to burst in an explosion of seismic energy.

With precision and what now seems like eerie foresight, the researchers charted the active faults on multicolored maps of Beichuan, which turned out to be the epicenter of the recent earthquake. "As far as I know, this is the only investigation of these active faults," said study co-author Michael Ellis of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis in Tennessee.


There is little reason to believe Chinese officials were aware of the July 2007 report, or that it would have made much difference if they had been.  "We had certainly identified the potential of these active faults," Ellis said. "But that information was effectively locked in an academic journal."

Related Link Scientists identified earthquake faults in Sichuan China.  British Geological Survey.  Scoop.  May 19, 2008.

Original Article Active tectonics of the Beichuan and Pengguan faults at the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau.  Alexander L. Densmore, Michael A. Ellis, Yong Li, Rongjun Zhou, Gregroy S. Hancock and Nicholas Richardson.  Tectonics, Vol. 26, TC4005, doi:10.1029/2006TC001987,2007.

If you plough through the Densmore article, you will find that most of it is couched in technical jargon.  The last sentences are:

The Beichuan and Pengguan faults have experienced surface rupture during the latest Pleistoscene and at some locations during the Holocene.  The faults are sufficiently long to sustain a strong ground-shaking earthquake, making them potentially serious sources of regional seismic hazard.

If you are Premier Wen Jiabao who is an earthquake expert by profession, what would you do?  Would you make the population of Beichuan live out in open space?  Would you evacuate them to other regions?  Would you knock down all sub-standard-bulding schools (which is most of them)?  After all, this paper is only suggesting that there could be an earthquake of unknown magnitude at some unspecified time somewhere in this large region.


Nevertheless, the Chinese government was obliged to answer the questions raised by the National Geographic article.  This article had been co-written by two Chinese collaborators: Yong Li and Rongjun Zhou, who felt that they had to step up to respond (especially since some bloggers have vilified them for not raising the alarm about the Wenchuan earthquake).

Zhou Rongjun recalled that the experts from America, Europe and China agreed that the Yingxiu faults in Beichuan are active.  Certain of these faults are active, and they seem to be slipping to the point where surface quakes are possible.  Simply put, some of these areas may experience earthquakes.  "But we do not know when or where these earthquakes might occur because the time frame could span several decades or even several centuries."

Professor Li Yong said that the article did not say that the "accumulation of energy from the faults at Beichuan county (Sichuan) will be released in the form of an earthquake."  In our article, we only spoke of the likelihood of an earthquake at the Beichuan fault.  There was nothing about the when, where and magnitude of such an earthquake."  Professor Li Yong said that the Chinese government has always been interested in the research on the seismic activities on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and the western Sichuan basin.  "The Chinese government pays attention to the geological study of this area.  During the last six years, the National Natural Sciences Foundation has spent money on the study of the Longmenshan situation.  It is irresponsible to say that the Chinese government is not interested in the research of the scientists."

"Earthquake prediction is a hard problem across the world.  There are many geological faults such as the Yingxiu fault in Beichuan all over the world.  In the end, we know that there would be an earthquake sooner or later in this region.  But based upon the present level of science and technology, there is no way that we can tell exactly when such anearthquake will occur." Researcher Zhou Rongjun said with regret.

[in translation]

At the 2008 New Media Summit Conference, State Council Information Office Internet Bureau deputy director Peng Bo said that the Internet has become mainstream media in Chinese society with the coverage of the Wenchuan earthquake.

As of 10pm on May 19, People Net, Xinhua Net, CCTV and China.cin published approximately 123,000 items (including photos, texts, audiovisual items) about the earthquake disaster.  Sina.com, Sohu.com, NetEase and QQ published 133,000 news items.  The above eight website received 11.6 billion page views to these items, with about 10.63 million comments.

The Internet made huge contributions towards the disaster relief effort.  For example, some search engines provided earthquake maps in order to facilitate understand the emergency.  A netizen published a suitable position for helicopter landing and that helped the Air Force.  Peng Bo pointed particularly to the Aba Prefecture Government website which provided post-disaster information at considerable risk to the lives of the workers, and this became an important channel of information for rescue work and information dissemination.

In addition, blogs, vlogs and IM tools were also important in disaster relief.  At Sina.com, Sohu.com and NetEase, the number of blog posts exceeded 233,000 with 2.36 billion page views and more han 12.6 million comments.

Audiovisual items were also a special characteristic.  In the earthquake reports, Peolple Net, Xinhua Net, China.com and CCTV published 4,830 video clips and 1,500 audio clips.  Sina.com, Sohu.com, NetEast and QQ published 6,113 video clips and 3,827 audio clips.

The State Council designated May 19-21 to be a mourning period for China.  On May 19, all the newspapers published in black-and-white.  In Nanjing, some citizens who read the Modern Express News newspaper were offended by the bright red McDonald's insert.  At around 3pm, hundreds of them showed up outside the McDonald's at the intersection of Xin and Zhenghong streets to protest.  The protestors were many young people and students. Some of the students entered the store and chased all the diners out.  There was no physical violence.  The police came to restore public order.  The restaurant closed for business in order not to inflame the crowd and re-opened later.

According to one man, it was regrettable that McDonald's was indifferent to the national disaster and the pains of its people.  A woman who was chased out said: "I didn't do anything wrong.  I've donated money.  I was hungry and I came in to get something to east.  Why did they chase me out?

According to Internet information, the same color ad also appeared in Guangdong, Shandong and elsewhere.

McDonald's told the reporter that they are really sorry.  The spokesperson said that when McDonald's learned about the directive about the days of mourning, they contacted all television stations and newspapers to stop running McDonald's ads.  "Unfortunately, we were unable to inform the local postal offices in charge of inserting promotional ads into the newspapers in time.  A small number of these ads were put into the newspapers and sent out."  The spokesperson said that McDonald's (China) announced today that they will donate an extra 10 million RMB earmarked for rebuilding educational facilities in the disaster areas.  On May 14, McDonald's had donated 1 million RMB and the Ronald McDonald Foundation also donated 500,000 RMB.

(Xici Hutong)

The confrontation between Queens county residents and the FLG practitioners is now on its fourth day ...

Yesterday at 10am, several dozen FLG member appeared in front of the Flushing Public Library.  Just like the past three days before, they unfurled banners that pronounced "The Heavens destroy the Chinese Communists," "Experts sent Sichuan earthquake prediction report confidentially to authorities" and so on to show the passer-bys.  Some of the FLG members said that they have been criticising the Chinese Communist regime and they thought that the Sichuan earthquake revealed the evil nature of the Chinese Communists.  Some FLG members even said that the Sichuan earthquake was the result of the violent rule of the Chinese Communists.

Their proclamations attracted many passer-bys, Main Street merchants and neighboring residents.  Some of those citizens were unhappy about the FLG propaganda.  Heated arguments ensued.  Amidst the confusion, some citizens rushed up to knock down the big FLG placards and stomped on them with their feet.

The Flushing Police Precinct 109 was notified and sent a large number of police officers to the scene.  The police immediately dispersed the spectators and used barriers to separate the two sides on the northern and southern ends of the library respectively ...  But the scene did not cool down as a result of the arrival of the police.  The FLG members raised their placards once again to protest, while the citizens on the other side brought a five-star national flag and chanted "The FLG is an evil cult" and "Go China!"

By noon, the rain was falling harder but the crowd grew larger.  The police barriers was broken through by up to 1,000 anti-FLG protestors.  The police arrested at least two Chinese males.

At around 3pm, the police asked Flushing city councilor Liu Chunyi to come down to the scene.  Liu used a loudspeaker to tell the crowd that America is a place with freedom of speech.: everybody has the right to express his viewpoints.  Personally, Liu said that China is coping with a disaster and the paramount task is for disaster relief.  He pointed out that these daily confrontations have disrupted normal order and public safety in Flushing -- the library cannot function properly and street traffic was disrupted.


After the evening traffic peak hour passed, more office workers joined in the crowd.  There were more than 1,000 people on Main Street and Kissena Avenue by the Public Library.  The police pushed the barriers forward almost to the Long Island Railroad bridge and increased the number of police officers present.

By nightfall, the anti-FLG protestors got more excited.  They raised their hastily prepared placards and the sound of the Chinese national anthem echoed into the night.  The police arrested a man who threw eggs into the crowd.

A man named Zheng said that he and some other passer-bys destroyed six FLG placards.  Zheng said that the Sichuan disaster was a terrible sight to behold but the FLG were banging gongs and drums to celebrate.  This sort of inhumane behavior was intolerable.  He admitted that "he destroyed the placards, but he did not assault anyone and the other side did not fight back."

Another resident named Zhang said that the fight between the FLG and the CCP is a "class struggle" in which he has no interest in participate.  He does not believe that the great Sichuan earthquake was "a retribution on the Chinese Communists" as asserted by the FLG.  Rather, it was a disaster for the people.  He believed that the assertion of the FLG was "entirely without human values."

But a FLG member holding a cameras said that the anti-FLG protestors do not really understand the FLG.  "They are really instigated from behind the scene by the special agents from the Chinese embassy."

At around 9pm, the FLG boarded a bus at the request of the police and left the scene.  The police breathed a sigh of relief as the crowds went home.  The police said that they will not permit the FLG to hold a demonstration in front of the Flushing Public Library again tomorrow.  Instead, they will be moved farther away.

YouTube Link:  法轮功又犯众怒 法拉盛华人再次自发抗议

Related Link:  Some rabid Falun Gong followers show their ugly side in Flushing, NY  Blog For China

[in translation]

According to information communicated at life-and-death risk by an expert in a relevant department of the China Earthquake Administration, the team of experts at the Sichuan Earthquake Administration had done their job and made a fairly accurate prediction.  They then informed the State Council and asked for permission to issue an earthquake pre-alert warning.

But a certain national leader denied the request on the grounds that it might affect the Olympics and the overall social stability of China.  This led to the biggest loss from a natural disaster in the almost sixty years existence of the Chinese Communist rule.  The tragedy was far worse than the 1976 Tangshan earthquake.

The China Earthquake Administration has become the focus of the doubts of the citizens.  The earthquake researchers who disclosed this information were pained by their guilty consciences and therefore sought to publish it on overseas websites at the risk of their lives.  They hope to lessen their sense of guilt, to seek forgiveness and to improve the system of earthquake warning.

The source said that the China Earthquake Administration experts were spot on on the timing and location of the earthquake and they only missed on the prediction of the magnitude.  The team had predicted that there would be a magnitude 6 earthquake instead.  The reporter asked the source what information they had consulted.  The source said that as expert witnesses, they had to be aware of the predictions from the US Earthquake Administration (see (National Geographic News)  Study Warned of China Quake Risk Nearly A Year Ago.  Kevin Holden Platt.  May 16, 2008.).

According to this person, the relevant American department had predicted that there would be a magnitude 5 earthquake one year ago.  Their own conclusion was that the earthquake would be of magnitude 6, which was closer to the truth.  But this magnitude 8 earthquake in Sichuan surpassed their worst prediction.

This expert also said that because their prediction was for a small magnitude, a small area and a remote location, certain state leaders decided not to publish a warning which might be bad for social stability.  He said that even though the current state of science does not allow for completely accurate prediction, earthquake prediction is not the inscrutable mysticism that the state media is propagandizing right now.  This expert felt very rueful and helpless at not being able to predict a magnitude 8 earthquake this time.

The reporter inferred that from the fact that Premier Wen Jiabao flew out to Sichuan one hour after the earthquake that the government was prepared beforehand about how to deal with this earthquake.  Under normal circumstances, such a rapid response was not possible.  The only explanation was that Wen Jiabao was already at the airport waiting to board a plane when the earthquake occurred.  The rapid response of the government had been carefully planned and went exactly according to plan.

Based upon analyziing the various information on the Internet, it can be determined that the Chinese decision-makers had made a full assessment of the impact of a magnitude 6 earthquake in Sichuan.  The assessment concluded that the government was better off not issuing a warning and it could accept the losses in lives and properties from a magnitude 6 earthquake.

From the various extreme information collected on the Internet since the earthquake, the government fully knew the national security sensitivity in the earthquake zone.  From the various indications, the government had dispatched biohazard units to areas with possible nuclear contamination before the earthquake even occurred.  It is a fact that there was a partial curfew and people were not allowed to enter those areas even before the earthquake.  From this, it can be inferred that the government took certain preventative measures to protect the nuclear weapons.  It was a good thing that there was no nuclear contamination.

Even the Internet speculations that the earthquake had been triggered by an explosion of nuclear weapon may not be entirely without basis.

Before the earthquake, traffic control was imposed on the number of persons and vehicles entering into the hot tourist spots in Sichuan.  After the earthquake, the armed police and the local soldiers advanced into the disaster zones slowly.  This showed that the relevant departments had already been alerted beforehand.

Once again, the refusal of the Chinese state leaders to issue an earthquake warning proved to the world that they are the "thugs and goons" that the CNN commentator described.  The lives that would be lost in a magnitude 6 earthquake -- our Sichuan compatriots, our Beichuan compatriots, the children -- are worthless to them.  For them, they only see a stream of numbers about money and wealth in front of their eyes.

For the sake of the Olympics and social stability, the earthquake warning was suppressed.  Once again, this shows the world that the lives of we the Chinese people is just something the leaders can dispose at will under this totalitarian system.  In the name of the national interests, we are the sheep who can be sacrificed according to their dictatorial wills.

This time, these dictators were willing to sacrifice a small number of lives in a magnitude 6 earthquake for the sake of the Olympics, the Sacred Flame and "overall stability in China."  Instead, this turned out to be a magnitude 8 earthquake that costs several tens of thousands or even several hundred thousands of lives.

Such a system must be changed.  Such a system must be overturned.

According to this source, the experts and the government leaders (including the leader who insisted on not issuing a warning) were all shocked that a magnitude 8 earthquake had occurred.  Upon belief, Premier Wen Jiabao fought hard to advocate an earthquake warning, but was unable to win.  Thus a huge mistake was made.

Here, forecasting means estimating the future earthquake rate as a function of location, time, and magnitude. Forecasting becomes prediction when we identify special conditions that make the immediate probability much higher than usual and high enough to justify exceptional action. Proposed precursors run from aeronomy to zoology, but no identified phenomenon consistently precedes earthquakes ... Reliable prediction of individual quakes is not realistic in the foreseeable future, but probabilistic forecasting provides valuable information for reducing risk. Recent studies are also leading to exciting discoveries about earthquakes.

(Nature)  Is the reliable prediction of individual earthquakes a realistic scientific goal?  Ian Main.  February 25, 1999.

Recent research and observation have shown that the process of seismogenesis is not completely random — earthquakes tend to be localized in space, primarily on plate boundaries, and seem to be clustered in time more than would be expected for a random process. The scale-invariant nature of fault morphology, the earthquake frequency-magnitude distribution, the spatiotemporal clustering of earthquakes, the relatively constant dynamic stress drop, and the apparent ease with which earthquakes can be triggered by small perturbations in stress are all testament to a degree of determinism and predictability in the properties of earthquake populations. The debate here centres on the prediction of individual events.

For the purposes of this debate, we define a sliding scale of earthquake 'prediction' as follows.

  1. Time-independent hazard. We assume that earthquakes are a random (Poisson) process in time, and use past locations of earthquakes, active faults, geological recurrence times and/or fault slip rates from plate tectonic or satellite data to constrain the future long-term seismic hazard. We then calculate the likely occurrence of ground-shaking from a combination of source magnitude probability with path and site effects, and include a calculation of the associated errors. Such calculations can also be used in building design and planning of land use, and for the estimation of earthquake insurance.
  2. Time-dependent hazard. Here we accept a degree of predictability in the process, in that the seismic hazard varies with time. We might include linear theories, where the hazard increases after the last previous event, or the idea of a 'characteristic earthquake' with a relatively similar magnitude, location and approximate repeat time predicted from the geological dating of previous events. Surprisingly, the tendency of earthquakes to cluster in space and time include the possibility of a seismic hazard that actually decreases with time. This would allow the refinement of hazard to include the time and duration of a building's use as a variable in calculating the seismic risk.
  3. Earthquake forecasting. Here we would try to predict some of the features of an impending earthquake, usually on the basis of the observation of a precursory signal. The prediction would still be probabilistic, in the sense that the precise magnitude, time and location might not be given precisely or reliably, but that there is some physical connection above the level of chance between the observation of a precursor and the subsequent event. Forecasting would also have to include a precise statement of the probabilities and errors involved, and would have to demonstrate more predictability than the clustering referred to in time-dependent hazard. The practical utility of this would be to enable the relevant authorities to prepare for an impending event on a timescale of months to weeks. Practical difficulties include identifying reliable, unambiguous precursors, and the acceptance of an inherent proportion of missed events or false alarms, involving evacuation for up to several months at a time, resulting in a loss of public confidence.
  4. Deterministic prediction. Earthquakes are inherently predictable. We can reliably know in advance their location (latitude, longitude and depth), magnitude, and time of occurrence, all within narrow limits (again above the level of chance), so that a planned evacuation can take place.

Time-independent hazard has now been standard practice for three decades, although new information from geological and satellite data is increasingly being used as a constraint. In contrast, few seismologists would argue that deterministic prediction as defined above is a reasonable goal in the medium term, if not for ever. In the USA, the emphasis has long been shifted to a better fundamental understanding of the earthquake process, and on an improved calculation of the seismic hazard, apart from an unsuccessful attempt to monitor precursors to an earthquake near Parkfield, California, which failed to materialize on time. In Japan, particularly in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake in 1995, there is a growing realization that successful earthquake prediction might not be realistic. In China, thirty false alarms have brought power lines and business operations to a standstill in the past three years, leading to recent government plans to clamp down on unofficial 'predictions'.

[The last reference is to the paper: Saegusa, A., China clamps down on inaccurate warnings, Nature 397, 284 (1999).]

Related Link The Status of Earthquake Prediction.  David D. Jackson.  Nature.  March 18, 1999.

In recent days, one study has been brought out by western media that the Wenchuan earthquake had been 'predicted'/'forecasted.'

(National Geographic News)  Study Warned of China Quake Risk Nearly A Year Ago.  Kevin Holden Platt.  May 16, 2008.

Just ten months before a deadly earthquake struck Sichuan Province's Beichuan county on May 12, a scientific study warned that the Chinese region was ripe for a major quake.  After examining satellite images and conducting on-the-ground inspections of deep, active faults in Sichuan Province for more than a decade, scientists issued a warning.

"The faults are sufficiently long to sustain a strong ground-shaking earthquake, making them potentially serious sources of regional seismic hazard," the Chinese, European, and U.S. geoscientists wrote in the mid-July 2007 edition of the journal Tectonics.  They concluded that clashing tectonic forces were growing in Beichuan, ready to burst in an explosion of seismic energy.

With precision and what now seems like eerie foresight, the researchers charted the active faults on multicolored maps of Beichuan, which turned out to be the epicenter of the recent earthquake. "As far as I know, this is the only investigation of these active faults," said study co-author Michael Ellis of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis in Tennessee.


There is little reason to believe Chinese officials were aware of the July 2007 report, or that it would have made much difference if they had been.  "We had certainly identified the potential of these active faults," Ellis said. "But that information was effectively locked in an academic journal."

Related Link Scientists identified earthquake faults in Sichuan China.  British Geological Survey.  Scoop.  May 19, 2008.

Original Article Active tectonics of the Beichuan and Pengguan faults at the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau.  Alexander L. Densmore, Michael A. Ellis, Yong Li, Rongjun Zhou, Gregroy S. Hancock and Nicholas Richardson.  Tectonics, Vol. 26, TC4005, doi:10.1029/2006TC001987,2007

Where does the Tectonics paper stand in the Main classifications scheme?  It is definitely not (4) deterministic prediction because there is no location (latitude, longitude and depth), magnitude, time of occurrence and probability.

Subtitle:  This magazine issues a special Wenchuan earthquake issue

Heading:  Facing ...

Heading:  ... Disaster