By David Bandurski — As we head into the fourth day of earthquake coverage, media reporting still seems to be going on in an atmosphere of relative openness. There are no indications yet that authorities have called off the sniffer dogs of the commercial media — though we should bear in mind that various and sundry directives are coming down concerning coverage. If time allows, we’ll attempt a cursory comparison of earthquake coverage in various media. For now, here is CMP director Qian Gang‘s latest commentary on the crisis, which appears on the Caijing magazine website. [Homepage image: Screenshot of news coverage of the quake at Sohu.com].
We encourage readers, while they are at the Caijing site, to check out the magazine’s dispatches from the scene of the disaster.
“We Must Face the Disaster Victims with Great Tolerance“
By Qian Gang (钱钢)
I appeal to those commanding the relief effort: do not capriciously wield the crime of “destroying the disaster relief effort” (破坏抗震救灾), and employ milder means to resolve social strife in the disaster-affected area . . .
The relationship between the government and the people is brought dramatically to the forefront in cases of major disasters like this one. Power is entrusted by the people (权为民所授). The government’s overall planning for the disaster relief effort must be subordinated to the needs and interests of the people, and the government must accept the scrutiny of the people in the disaster area, even if they harshly find fault. As the wide-scale relief effort is underway, I call on [the government] to have a tolerant and merciful attitude toward those disaster victims who by great stroke of fortune escaped this major disaster. They must be treated kindly and respected.
I have no doubt that the government will spare no effort in saving those living among the rubble. Nor do I have any doubt that the government will put a strong emphasis on immediate needs such as food supplies, drinking water, tent shelters, clothing and blankets, and that these will arrive as the roads are cleared. This [effort] is being conveyed now, and will continue to be conveyed to the world through the lens of China Central Television. And in the following days, we will without fail see the glint of appreciative tears and hear heartfelt commendation of the party and the government.
However, those of us watching from outside can scarcely understand the depth of the pain those in the disaster area feel right now as they live among the wreckage. Wang Zhenyao (王振耀), head of the emergency relief division of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, was right when he said that while our policies are about principles (我们的政策是原则性的), the sufferings of ordinary people are concrete. The people in the disaster area have seen their families broken and lives lost. Mothers have lost their children. These people face sufferings that beggar the imagination, and each family has a different story of tragedy, and its own psychological and spiritual burden . . .
Facing the turbulent emotions of the disaster victims, we cannot simply say, “The People’s Liberation Army has come! Long live the people’s army!” We must also say, “Our rescue teams were obstructed by hardships, and rescue teams should have arrived earlier!” The government should give ear to their quarrels and even their anger, and must patiently explain the facts of the situation facing them and their actions and decision-making. In the long, hard days ahead in the relief effort, it is possible that sentiment will stir among the masses of disaster victims, and the government must face this with understanding and tolerance.
The Chinese people, who have faced many disasters, have a tradition of forbearance and reticence. But in thirty years of economic reform . . . a consciousness of rights has awakened in the people. Dumb silence has given way to public clamor. The ordinary people have numerous and various demands, and these demands will sometimes be expressed in irrational ways. In the unsettled disaster area, the government must ensure social stability for the safety of the people. But specific moves and measures to ensure order must not take the shape of haughty efforts to control the population in the disaster area (决不应是对灾民居高临下的管控).
I appeal to those commanding the relief effort: do not capriciously wield the crime of “destroying the disaster relief effort”, and employ milder means to resolve social strife in the disaster-affected area. How precious is this word, “harmony”!
[Posted by David Bandurski, May 16, 2008, 10:15am HK]
“China OKs 4 Foreign Rescue Teams“, AP via Time.com, May 16, 2008
“School Collapse in Focus as China Buries Quake Dead“, Reuters, May 16, 2008
“Black-hearted” conmen bid for China quake charity“, Reuters, May 16, 2008
“CNN Apologizes to China Over Tibet Comments“, New York Times, May 16, 2008