Date/Time: June 13-14, 2008, 8:30-6:30 daily
Venue: Council Chamber, 8/F, Meng Wah Building, University of Hong Kong

Partial programme:

June 13, 2008 Friday, 1:45pm-2:45pm
SESSION 3: Presentation & Discussion: Chinese Internet User Survey
Moderator: Ang Peng Hwa, Chair, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Presentation by Deborah Fallows, Pew Internet & American Life Project. Reaction and analysis from Roland Soong, media researcher and blogger at EastSouthWestNorth.

June 14, 2008 Saturday, 1:30pm-2:20pm
SESSION 8: DISCUSSION: Internet, Tibet, the Olympics and the Earthquake
Moderator: Jeremy Goldkorn, Founder,
Discussion with bloggers Roland Soong of EastSouthWestNorth and Isaac Mao of

[translated with editing]

First, read the following words:

Barack Obama has won the Democratic Party nomination for the American presidency.  During his campaign, he had a crisis moment when his pastor Jeremiah Wright said that 9/11 was God's punishment on America and also that Hillary Clinton had no idea what it means to be treated as inhuman because she had never been called a nigger ...

Wright's words touched on the sensitive nerves of the American people, most of whom found this unacceptable.  Twenty years ago, Wright was the spiritual teacher who brought Obama into Christianity.  Obama said that Wright was mistaken in preaching that America was falling short.  But at the same time if America were to pretend that everything is fine, then it would be making the same mistake as Wright did.  Obama also said that even if Wright spoke inappropriately, he could not break off with Wright just as he could not break off with his white grandmother.

Obama has finally won.  This proved that the Americans are tolerant about the inappropriate speech by his pastor Jeremiah Wright.

The 9/11 incident was more sensitive to Americans than the Sichuan earthquake.  The earthquake was a natural disaster, and it can arguably said to be the "will of God."   The 9/11 incident was completely manmade.  It is obviously against public opinion to say that it was "God punishing America" in that case.

There is certainly a vast difference between how Americans tolerate opinions that they cannot accept and how viciously the mainland Chinese (including the Hong Kong people) treated dissident opinions recently.

That was from the Apple Daily editorial piece that Li Yi wrote today.  He wanted to use the firm devotion of Barack Obama to his pastor to show how foreigners tolerate dissident opinion in comparison to the bigotry and intolerance of the Chinese people.  The whole point was to complain about the criticisms against Li Yi's own theory of the "wrath of the gods" in the Sichuan earthquake.

Li Yi must not have read his own newspaper when he invoked Barack Obama's pastor as the example.  On June 1st, Apple Daily carried the following report:

Obama quits controversial church

Even as the controversy over the Florida and Michigan primary elections was resolved, Barack Obama who is hoping to win the Democratic Party nomination for presidency has decided to shed the negative baggage of his pastor.  Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have announced that they are resigning from the Trinity United Church of Christ.

"Frankly speaking, I make this decision with regret.  I recognized Christ the Saviour in this church.  I was married here and my child was baptised here."  This was what Barack Obama said while he campaigned for votes in South Dakota as he explained why he was leaving the Trinity United Church of Christ.

This is a "slap in the face."

Sometimes, one can become a fool when one is overly anxious to make a case for oneself.

The Sichuan earthquake has obviously caused nationalism to rise in China, especially among the netizens.  They may have gone too far against the big corporations that donated too little, Sharon Stone and the Liaoning girl who made a cursing video.  But the netizens (especially those who hang out at the discussion forums) do not behave like ordinary people.  Their mission is to express their power in numbers on the Internet.  In Li Yi's article, he is wrong to suppose that the Internet commentators represent all 210 million netizens; he is wrong to suppose that they represent all 1.4 billion Chinese citizens.  He acted as if the Internet opinions represent all the Chinese people.  At the same time, he does not forget to bring up how tolerant the western nations are by comparison.  Thankfully, Barack Obama did not help him.

When someone criticizes what you say, you raise the flag of freedom of speech aloft and you complain that freedom of speech is gone.  How come you have the freedom of speech, and other people do not have the freedom to object to your speech?  Li Yi's Apple Daily editorial should be sealed in a plastic bag and packaged separately because it invokes double standards, cites the incorrect evidence and ruins people's minds.



With respect to the case of Geng Qingguo, I had previously commented:

(  The scientist Geng Qingguo developed a theory of earthquake prediction based upon the relationship between droughts and earthquakes.  He observed that in earthquakes of magnitude 6 or stronger, there is frequently a drought one year to three-and-a-half years before; the larger the drought area, the stronger the quake; and a third-year quake is half a magnitude bigger than a one-year quake.  Using this theory, Geng Qingguo claimed to have successfully predicted the Haichang quake of 1975 and the Tangshan quake of 1976.  In April 2006, Geng Qingguo made a mid-term prediction at the Natural Disaster Prediction Committee of the Chinese Geophysical Society that there will be a 6 to 7 magnitude earthquake south of Lanzhou in the region about Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.  On April 30, 2008, Geng Qingguo sent a confidential letter to the China Earthquake Administration that "a magnitude 7+ earthquake is due to occur in the Aba Prefecture area of Sichuan around May 8 (plus or minus 10 days)."

At the time, I wrote that the information on Geng Qingguo is incomplete.  It is stated that he is three-for-three on the Haichang, Tangshan and Wenchuan earthhqakes.  But how many other predictions has Geng Qingguo made in his career?  How many of those turned out to be correct?  If he has made only these three predictions, then he is a true genius.  If he has made five hundred other incorrect predictions, then he is wasting people's time.

(  Fang Zhouzi is now reporting that he was on a CCTV talk show during which a representative from the China Earthquake Administration stated that they have received a total of 14 'prediction cards' from Geng Qingguo in recent years.  Those cards were checked against what actually happened.  Even with a liberal interpretation of the scope (that is, time, place and magnitude), the accuracy of Geng Qingguo was 0 for 14.

More on the historical record:  (Comment)  China Earthquake Administration Monitoring and Alert Department deputy director Ju Shi said that since the year 2000, the China Earthquake Administration's Earthquake Network has received more than 700 short-term earthquake prediction reports.  Among these, seven turned out to be accurate.  In 2008, 26 earthquake prediction reports have been received and none were accurate.

Still more on the historical record:  (NatureIs the reliable prediction of individual earthquakes a realistic scientific goal?  Ian Main.  February 25, 1999:  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).]

On the evening of June 4th, many Hong Kong citizens came down to
Victoria Park to participate in the candlelight assembly to
commemorate the victims of the Sichuan earthquake

They sat down on the soccer fields and held candlesticks

As the evening grew darker, more candles were lit to form an ocean

The candlelight silently expressed the sad and well-meaning sentiments
of the Hong Kong people towards their compatriots

The light drizzle did not dampen the passion and sincerity of the Hong Kong people

This was just a partial view of the ocean. According to the organizers,
more than 48,000 persons attended the candlelight assembly, which
occupied five soccer fields
This candlelight assembly took about two hours, and included oration,
songs, silent commemoration and offering flowers to the martyrs.
The donations collected at the scene were counted that same evening
and turned over to the Hong Kong Red Cross to support the
reconstruction of the disaster zone in Sichuan.

[in translation]

Congratulations on the great earthquake in Sichuan:

Do not say that I have no sympathy!
I am saying something from my heat!
I would rather sympathize with the Japs than the dog cunts of Sichuan!
An earthquake!
That's too good!
That's the karma meted by the heavens!
As of 10pm last evening!
Only 7,651 people are dead!
Too few!
Ha ha!
But there is no need to get too impatient!
Certain areas have not yet reported in!
Sichuan people deserved to die in the earthquake!
You are called dogs and can you deny it?
Now you are like dogs waiting for other people to hand out money and materials to you!
If you don't know how repulsive Sichuan people are, you might donate!
But I will not donate a cent!
If I had money, I'd rather use it as toilet paper to wipe my arse!
I check out the horns at the QQ race cars!
How many of them sympathize with Sichuan people?
It is all their own fault!
Instead of blaming the heavens, blame yourselves!
It is the same old phrase!
If you did not do good deeds before, then no amount of begging will help now!
The Heavens are just!
Come on, may the earthquakes kill all the dog cunts of Sichuan!

What are the favorable attributes that a school might use as signals to attract potential students?  Class size?  Teacher-to-student ratio?  Scholastic achievements?  In Hengyang city, Hunan province, a school chose to list the parents and relatives of current and past students.  So what?  Except these parents and relatives are senior officials.  Thus, the students are listed as the children as the child of a County People's Congress Standing Committee member, or the nephew of a Department of Education leader, or the nephew of a middle school principal, and so on.  According to a Deputy of Education worker, this is not against any regulations.

(Yu Qiuyu's blog)

[in translation]

Yesterday, I read in certain overseas media that parents in the disaster areas were bringing photos of their late children and asking for legal redress again certain school officials and contractors where the schools collapsed during the earthquake.  From those photos, the police appeared to be trying to use moderate methods to mediate, but the parents were emotionally excited.  This was how the media which had not been able to find any anti-China excuse for some time once again began their anti-China propaganda.  Their smears consist of four points:

1. This was a natural disaster, but it was even more so a manmade tragedy;

2. The authorities have announced that the courts will not accept this case;

3. Five foreign correspondents filming this scene were detained by the police "for a brief period" during which they were questioned about their identities;

4. Has the earthquake really made China democratic?

It is with tears that I made the following plea to these petitioning disaster victims:

All the people in this nation can feel your pain in losing your children.  When 1.3 billion people stood still solemnly to commemorate in silence for three minutes, it was the biggest and most solemn commemoration in human history.  Including in that commemoration are your children.  On this of national mourning, a Buddhist scholar told me that these departed ones have all become Buddhas with the blessing of 1.3 billion people, and they shall go on to protect China.  I think that if your children are in high up in the heavens, they will have found peace of mind.

The issue of the quality of the school buildings must be investigated.  Those contractors and other persons who built shoddy school buildings must be punished by the law.  Under the present circumstances, I cannot imagine anyone would dare to shield these people.  What you said in the petition is already the will of the various levels of government as well as the broad masses.  But there has to be a process for this to happen.

No matter what you say, this was still mainly a natural disaster.  There are some houses and schools that are still standing.  But there are many different factors and it cannot be viewed purely via one angle.  Several international seismologists have said that when an earthquake reaches magnitude 7.8, all buildings should collapse in theory unless there are special reasons.  This time, it was a magnitude 8 in Sichuan!

With this as the main cause, it is hard to determine the other factors why the buildings collapse.  There has to be scientific tests and debates that take relatively long periods of time, such that it is comparable to overseas earthquake of the same intensity.  I hope that the relevant authorities has preserved the material evidence over the collapsed school buildings for the purpose of technical studies by the judiciary branch even as they search for survivors and recover bodies.  But at this moment, rashness should be avoided because there are more urgent matters.

The quake lakes problems are like a sword hanging over the heads of hundreds of thousands of people.  The problems over public health and epidemics cannot wait.  All the forces in the disaster zone are focused on disasters relief.  Large numbers of people have been relocated.  Everything is in flux.  Therefore, it is hard to deal quickly with the legal problems concerning the quality of the collapsed school buildings.  I think that you must be people who appreciate the overall good of society.  How about letting us deal with the safety issues of several hundreds of thousands (even several millions) of survivors first?

Your outstanding conduct after the diaster has earned the highest respect for the Chinese people. You cannot deny that during this period, the various levels of the Chinese government, they army, the armed police, the doctors and the rescuers and volunteers from all over China and the rest of the world have done their best and touched everybody.  Only when these various forces are concentrated together without interference can this huge task be completed.  Therefore, you must make sure that this atmosphere continues by acting as the host and ensuring that there are no digressions.  Those people who have always been hostile to the Chinese people are waiting every day for us to do a little something wrong.

Related Link Blogger suggests temperance, accused of brown-nosing  John Kennedy, GVO

President Ma on June 4 expressed his thoughts on the 19th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

President Ma said that since the crackdown on June 4, 1989, he has each year either participated in activities commemorating the events or has issued an article describing his feelings. He said his concern for the June 4, 1989 events is primarily related to whether compatriots in mainland China will be able to enjoy a free and democratic lifestyle.

The president said the main difference in marking June 4 this year compared with previous years is that the enormous earthquake that struck Sichuan happened exactly three weeks ago. The quake caused damage in an area of land exceeding 100,000 square kilometers. Over 400,000 people were either killed or injured as a result of the quake, and at least five million people were left homeless. The president noted the speed in which mainland authorities engaged in disaster rescue operations and expressed their concern for the plight of those whose lives have been impacted by the tremor. He added that the mainland has allowed a high degree of freedom in reporting on the disaster as well as protests carried out by villagers. Meanwhile, people throughout mainland China have flocked to make donations. The mainland has even welcomed foreign rescue teams and has affirmed the efforts of Taiwan in providing disaster rescue and relief. All of this marks a sharp contrast to how authorities handled the Tangshan earthquake that struck mainland China in 1976. This time, the president said, the international press has repeatedly praised China for its handling of the disaster, which demonstrates that results are being seen from the 30 years of reforms and liberalization carried out in China.

President Ma noted that in his inauguration address he said: "We care about the welfare of the 1.3 billion people of mainland China, and hope that mainland China will continue to move toward freedom, democracy and prosperity for all the people. This would pave the way for the long-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations."

The president said that today this is the true significance of our concern with regards to the June 4 Incident.

(Apple Daily)

The reflections of Ma Ying-jeou were evasive in that he switched the human right issue of June 4 to the mainland earthquake.  Of the 400+ words in his statement, almost half were in praise of the China: ""the mainland authorities engaged in disaster rescue operations immediately, the mainland leaders showed their concern for the victims, the news reporting on the disaster and the rescue effort were open, the mainland Chinese people flocked to give donations, foreign rescue teams were welcomed ... the international media gave high praises."  Is this a statement about June 4?

A total of 43 words in the statement were about the democracy, freedom and human right related to June 4.  The praises for the disaster rescue took up 47.5% of the words, or almost one half; only 10.7% were about democracy.  Even more cautious is that human rights was substituted by prosperity out of the fear of offending China.  This major compromise comes from a dishonest and hypocritical attitude that is difficult to accept.

We understand that Ma Ying-jeou wants to improve relations with China and that Lian Chan and Wu Poh-hsiung have cultivated hard-earned high-level connections.  Ma was worried about saying something on June 4 that might displease the other side and put all those efforts to waste.  That would ruin his plan to use China to salvage the economy of Taiwan.  Obviously, Ma had the experience of seeing the pettiness and narrowmindedness of the other side and therefore chose to stay low to curry favor.

Does it matter if the mainland authorities were really quick with disaster rescue, if news reporting was really genuinely open, the mainland people were really flocking to donate money, or the international media were really giving high praises -- and this is debatable because there are ample facts to the contrary.  Okay, even if everything that Ma says is true, what has that got to do with June 4th?

It is the nature of the government and its leaders to mount disaster rescue missions, for what else are the people keeping the government for?  The government should not have interfered with news reporting at all, so why is there an issue of openness?  Should they be praised for being open?  It is also logical to welcome foreign aid, so why is this a credit to the government?  The government used to forbid news coverage and foreign aid previously, so is it now boundlessly benevolent for accepting that?  A certain evil person used to murder people, but now he only rapes people.  Should we praise and thank him for that?

Ma Ying-jeou could have expressed his concern and hopes for democracy and human rights in China without being using harsh words.  He needs at least to spell out the spirit of commemorating June 4 and express the high standards of courage and morality of a president.  How can expounding on the earthquake be commemorating June 4?  Also, what right does the Democratic Progressive Party have to criticize Ma Ying-jeou?  During the eight years when the Democratic Progressive Party rules, they never commemorated June 4 and they did not care about democracy and human rights in China.  So why show off now?

On the afternoon of May 12, 2008 shortly after the Sichuan earthquake occurred a netizen named 'DieBao' posted her thoughts to the Southern Weekend group at  This was her first experience of an earthquake, and she was elated.  She hoped that the earthquake could happen again even more powerfully.  She few that five people died at a certain middle school and she thought that not enough people had died compared to the tsunami in Indonesia.  After the true extent of the earthquake became known, netizens went from sharing her sentiments to attacking her and she made repeated explanations.

On May 15, a new group named "No longer interested in the Wenchuan earthquake" was founded for the purpose of discussing the government actions after the earthquake.  This was located by the "sock puppet gang" of the "Douban loving hearts group" which called for its member to join the group and attack its leader.  DieBao joined the group to defend the leader's right to reflect and thus clashed with the "sock puppet gang."  The next day, the group was disbanded by the Douban administrator.

On May 16, DieBao expressed her discontent with the "sock puppet gang" at a friend's group.  The "sock puppet gang" found out and rushed in to attack DieBao and the group leader.  In order to calm things down, DieBao opened up a new group named "The sock puppet gang is drowning DieBao with their saliva."  So the "sock puppet gang" moved to that group to continue their assault.

On early moring on May 17, Diebao issued a letter of apology to the "sock puppet gang." But the "sock puppet gang" did not consider her to be sincere, and continued their assault.  In the afternoon, DieBao deleted all comments and dissolved the group (note: Douban requires the removal of all comments, users and posts before a group can be dissolved).

This was the stage in which the two sides clashed directly.  During this stage, both sides used verbal violence.  The "sock puppet gang" even used DieBao's childhood fears to attack her.

On the evening of May 16, the "sock puppet gang" threatened Diebao twice about mobilizing human flesh search engines.  Its members posed a call for human flesh search engines at the "Wenchuan needs your help group!" and got no response.  So the they went instead to post at Tianya and MOP forums with a title <Please start a human flesh search engine, we strongly condemn this immoral Chinese person with no conscience>.  The post contained excerpts from what DieBao originally wrote.  They also posted to the comments section in order to generate more interest.  However, there was no response.

On the evening of May 17, the "sock puppet gang" made better preparations and posted to Tianya and the Baidu Post Bar group for the school in which DieBao resides.  The title was <I wanted the earthquake to be even more powerful!>.  The posts contains certain screen captures that had been pieced together by PhotoShop; they located photos of her from her personal blog; they obtained personal information about DieBao from her school user account.  This time, it worked.

At the Baidu Post Bar, the "sock puppet gang" continued to apply pressure by attacking DieBao's teachers, asking them to pay attention to her political attitude and her "totally immoral" and "completely reactionary" position.

DieBao said that her school received complaint calls and even her mother was harassed on the phone.

On May 20, Diebao's advisor made a recommendation for her to go leave for a year because "you may encounter trouble ... you are a girl ... the school may expel you if the the school gets in trouble."  At 10:30am, arrangements were completed for her to go on leave.  That evening, DieBao apologized to the netizens.

I believe that this affair is one in which the "sock puppet gang" claimed "(Chinese-style) political correctness" and "human morality" and made use of DieBao's unfortunate speech to instigate uninformed netizens to attack Diebao to vent their personal anger at her over the previous encounter.  The "sock puppet gang" may not have expected the outcome.

I understand that the most active "sock puppet gang" members are corporate white-collar workers, teachers, newspaper editors as well as some recent university graduates or current students.  Interestingly enough, they labelled themselves as "artistic young people" and some are even well-known.  Their actions under the cover of their "sock puppet ID's" do not match the respect that they receive in real life.

Some netizens say that DieBao made a mistake first by being careless with her wrods and this gave the cause to the "sock puppet gang."  I agree.  But the Chinese people always tend to blame the weak.  If you are robbed, you will be told "Why didn't you keep it safely?"  If you are sexually harassed, you will be told "Why don't you wear more clothes?"

I would rather condemn the robbers, because this means that we don't have to be so anxious out in the street.  I would rather condemn the sexual harassers, because we can get more than an eyeful.  I would rather condemn the "sock puppet gang, because we can be frank and sincere without being too concerned about what we say.  At this moment, we need a compatriot more than an enemy.  Nobody is born without a conscience.  To be labelled as "traitor" because of a slip of the tongue is a form of internecine battle, right?

Perhaps this will also help us to build a society in which we want to live sooner.

19-year-old Janice Man is a new star model in Hong Kong.  Last Thursday, Janice Man said the following in response to a reporter's question about Sharon Stone's remark: "You can't say whether this is karma or not because nobody wants to see a big disaster happen.  When a natural disaster strikes, you cannot avoid it.  Perhaps the Heavens are meting out punishment in order to make people protect the natural environment better.  這 不 可 以 說 是 報 不 報 應 , 因 每 個 人 也 不 想 發 生 嚴 重 災 難 , 而 且 天 災 的 事 想 避 也 避 不 到 , 可 能 是 上 天 給 予 的 懲 罰 , 要 人 們 更 加 保 護 自 然 環 境 。"  After that, all hell broke loose on the Hong Kong discussion forums.

Historical record (Organizers' figure/police estimate)

  • 1990: 150,000; 80,000
  • 1991: 100,000; 60,000
  • 1992: 80,000; 28,000
  • 1993: 40,000; 10,000
  • 1994: 45,000; 12,000
  • 1995: 30,000; 16,000
  • 1996: 45,000; 16,000
  • 1997: 55,000; na
  • 1998: 40,000; 16,000
  • 1999: 70,000; na
  • 2000: 45,000; na
  • 2001: 48,000; na
  • 2002: 45,000; 18,000
  • 2003: 50,000; 21,000
  • 2004: 82,000; 48,000
  • 2005: 45,000; 22,000
  • 2006: 44,000; 19,000
  • 2007: 55,000; 27,000
  • 2008: 48,000; 15,700

(Ming Pao)

It has been nineteen years since the June 4th incident on Tiananmen Square.  The new generation of Hong Kong middle school students have almost no knowledge about this incident.  Yesterday, our reporter interviewed middle school students in the street.  More than half of the students could not say which year the June 4th incident took place.  Chai Ling, Wuer Kaixi, Wang Dan ... were unfamiliar names.  Their parents rarely talk about the June 4th incident to them and the schools just gloss over it in the history classes.  It is hard to learn about this piece of history.

Yesterday, our reporter interviewed 16 middle school students (Form 1 to Form 6) in the streets of Causeway Bay.  The reporter asked 10 simple questions related to the June 4th incident: "Where did it take place?" "Which students leaders participated in the affair?"  The highest mark was five.  Three persons could not get a single question right, as they said that they have never heard of "June 4th."

Among the 16 students, four of them thought hard and came up with 1989 as the year of the June 4th incident.  Most of the others said "I am not sure" or "I don't know." As for the names of the student leaders, none of them could name anyone.  As for the names of the government leaders, only two were aware that Zhao Ziyang lost his job over the incident.  One Form 2 student thought that the June 4th incident took place in Nanjing.

With respect to the cause of the June 4th incident, almost all of them shook their heads to plead ignorance.  One student said that the June 4th incident was the result of "a clash between outsiders and the Chinese students." Another student said that "two Communist leaders were fighting each other openly -- one of them wanted to protect the students while the other one wanted to suppress them, and this ended up in a clash." Ultimately, four were able to say that it was "to fight for democracy" and one was able to say that one of the reasons for the June 4th incident was a commemoration of the late Communist Party Secretary General Hu Yaobang.

A Form 4 student got the most number of correct answers.  She said that she had seen June 4th on billboards.  On the day before yesterday, the history teacher showed a documentary about the June 4th incident and so she learned more from that.  She said that the June 4th incident is a sensitive matter and she does not want to know too much.  But this was a major historical incident and "students should know something about it.

During the street interviews, most students did not know what "June 4th" was about but they all sensed that it was a painful piece of history and they hope to learn more about it.  They said that their families don't discuss it and the teachers do not explain the details of the incident in their history classes.  Therefore, it was hard for them to find out about it.

... Let us supposed that the June 4th democratic movement succeeded.  During these twenty years, China went down the road of democracy.  There is freedom of press.  There is freedom to form political parties.  The leaders of the parties and the government are all chosen via elections.  Then all the flaws in Chinese society would be effectively put under control.  When a big disaster such as this earthquake arrives, the information is transparent.  Earthquake prediction would not be a top state secret and a senior leader would not be able to suppress the report.  When they receive the earthquake prediction, the leaders cannot decide on their own whether to publish it or not.  The report will be debated in parliament first.  The legislators are elected by the people and they are responsible not to their superiors but to the people who elected them.  The Sichuan government is not responsible to the central government.  If the central government does not publish the report, the local government can publish it themselves.  The local government is only responsible to the Sichuan people.  They don't have to concerned about national stability, the impact on the Olympics or any of the other things that the central government hsa to consider.  Under such a system, the large number of civilian deaths in this Sichuan earthquake is totally avoidable, like the Wenchuan school which received the notice one hour beforehand and all teachers and students were evacuated safely.  Those schools that collapsed during the earthquake would not have done so, because it is impossible to have 'tofu dreg' construction in a democratic system.  Every stage of the construction process would be under strict supervision.  None of the 64 Project Hope schools build with Hong Kong aid collapsed during this earthquake.  When we see the children buried in the rubble, when we see the pile of school bags drug out from the debris and when we see crying mothers holding the photos of their children, we think that if the June 4th democratic movement had succeeded, would any of these calamities have befallen them?  Yet that movement was strangled by tanks and guns.  The massacre at Tiananmen Square is not only a massacre of the students who was fighting for freedom and democracy at the Square.  It was also a massacre of the children who died in the earthquake.

(SCMP)  Vigil pays glowing tribute to June 4 and earthquake victims.  Ambrose Leung and Fanny W.Y. Fung.  June 5, 2008.

Paying tribute to the dead, alliance chairman Szeto Wah praised the central government's earthquake relief efforts, which he hoped represented a breakthrough that would lead to greater openness  and freedom on the mainland.  "We cannot escape natural disasters like earthquakes, but man-made ones like the bloody crackdown are not inevitable ... Our dear countrymen, who lost your lives in the massacre and the earthquake, may you rest in peace," he said.

Top text: The center invested huge amount of money
to develop specialized medicine to treat the root cause of
paruresis ...
Bottom text:  CCTV, Joint News Broadcast, March 16, 2008

Top text: Mouth, nose and throat disease are
best treated at Dongtai Hospital
Bottom text: State Council Premier Wen Jiabao
delivers the government's work report

Top text: ... six miraculous results of
self-cleaning, male impotence, youth preservation ...
Bottom text:  Committee chairman Wu Bangguo delivered
work report to the National People's Congress members

Top text: The killed viruses are expelled from the body through
the urine, gonorrhoea, eczema, herpes, ...
Bottom text: The eleventh National People's Congress's sixth meeting of all members

Do you remember what happened on the eve of June 4th last year?

Let me remind you: A certain HK SAR politician made certain flippant comments such as "there was no massacre at Tiananmen Square, and you can throw a pig underneath a tank as an experiment."  This drew debate and reaction, and increased the number of attendees at the June 4th evening candlelight gathering significantly.  On that night, the organizers called for "remembering the dead souls" and "asking for vindication." They hope that the authorities and everybody else will recognize that these things actually occurred, existed and appeared.  It had been eighteen years.  It has been a long road to go from "commemoration" through "vindication" to "recognition."

Another years has passed.  Eighteen years became nineteen years.  There will be another assembly on the evening of June 4th.  The theme of the assembly will once again be for vindication.  The same slogan has been chanted for so many years.  The response has been indifferent, indifferent and indifferent again.  But the organizers have persisted with this activity.  To put it simply, they only toil and they check the harvest.  The obstinacy of the Hong Kong people is precisely what makes them lovely.

But the atmosphere of this year is different from the past.  In 2008, one can say this: There has been a previously unseen sense of togetherness in China.  Suddenly, many Chinese people found out that they were connected to each other in their joys, anger, sorrow and happiness.  This sense of togetherness was based upon historical sentiments and reinforced by current circumstances.  Like a hurricane, the collective feelings of the Chinese people have caused nationalism to spread like wildfire across China.

Specifically, the wildfire had three origins.  The first is the Beijing Olympics which corresponds to the imagination of "collective glory."  China has risen and a flourishing age has arrived.  The world recognizes that China is rich and powerful.  The second is the Sichuan earthquake, which corresponds to the imagination of "collective sorrow."  It was a time of rubbles, deaths and relocations.  Through the blood and tears, the Chinese people perceived the blurry boundary between natural and manmade disasters.  The third is the Taiwan breakthrough, which was an exploration for "collective co-existence."  The two sides of the Taiwan strait have put aside the belligerent talk and establish bridges.  Through these three fires, the Chinese people have never been more united.

Such is the situation of these times, so the June 4th assembly this year is facing a very intriguing situation.  On the surface, if one were to cry out for "vindication of June 4th" when the "sense of togetherness" is so powerful would be considered "pouring cold water" on the overall situation.  The critical pressures would be so much stronger and deeper.  Yet in the deeper sense, it is even more important to call for the "vindication of June 4th" this year than ever before.  After all, June 4th was a key tragic moment over the last 20 years of development in China.  Many of the people who are touched by the "collective glory," "collective sorrow" and "collective co-existence" of this moment -- including Premier Wen Jiabao -- had experience the sorrow of June 4th.  If the June 4th incident is not properly recognized and handled at the appropriate moment, it will become a repressed instinct that will inhibit the progress of Chinese society towards becoming a civilized society


Beijing Students
50%: Did the right thing
15%: Did the wrong thing
Chinese government
15%: Did the right thing
58%: Did the wrong thing
Official stand on the incident
49%: Should be reversed
26%: Should not be reversed
China's human right condition since 1989
85%: Improved
  2%: Worsened
China's human right condition in 3 years' time
77%: Improve
  2%: Worsen
Hong Kong people with respect to instigating the development of democracy in China
75%: Responsible
14%: Not responsible
Hong Kong people with respect to instigating economic development in China
81%: Responsible
11%: Not responsible
Hong Kong people should put effort into economic development or democracy in China
42%: More effort on economic development
23%: More effort on democracy
China should emphasize on economic development or democracy
46%: More emphasis on economic development
27%: More emphasis on democracy

Well you know it was very interesting because at first, you know, I am not happy about the ways the Chinese were treating the Tibetans because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else. And so I have been very concerned about how to think and what to do about that because I don't like that. And I had been this, you know, concerned about, oh how should we deal with the Olympics because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine.

And all these earthquake and stuff happened and I thought: Is that karma, when you are not nice that bad things happen to you? And then I got a letter, from the Tibetan Foundation that they want to go and be helpful. And that made me cry. And they ask me if I would write a quote about that and I said,"I would."  And it was a big lesson to me, that some times you have to learn to put your head down and be of service even to people who are not nice to you. And that's a big lesson for me...

Another transcription is posted at Blog For China:

Well you know it was very interesting because at first, you know, I am not happy about the ways the Chinese were treating the Tibetans because I don’t think anyone should be unkind to anyone else. And so I have been very concerned about how to think and what to do about that because I don’t like THAT.

And I had been this, you know, concerned about, oh how should we deal with the Olympics because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine.

And all these earthquake and stuff happened and I thought: IS THAT KARMA? When you are not nice that bad things happen to you.

And then I got a letter, from the Tibetan Foundations that they want to go and be helpful. And that made me cry. And they ask me if I would write a quote about that and I said, “I would.” And it was a big lesson to me, that some times you have to learn to put your head down and be of service even to people who are not nice to you. And that’s a big lesson for me.

Better yet, you can go to YouTube and look for the video (search for "Sharon Stone" and "China"; no links are posted here because those videos keep getting deleted and reloaded).

That speech was translated into Chinese, where there are some problems.  Lam Kay published an essay in Apple Daily today (also at PlasticHK) to point out that the cable network CEN made some translation errors.  Here are some translations/back-translations that are provided by Lam Kay

Is that Karma, …? --> 這是報應吧 --> That is Karma!

I am not happy about the ways the Chinese were treating the Tibetans --> 我很不喜歡中國對待西藏的方式 --> I am very unhappy about the ways the Chinese were treating the Tibetans

Is this really so upsetting?  That is for you to decide.  In the New York Times: “I am really sorry that it created such a thing,” she said. “I misspoke for four seconds and it’s become an international incident.”  Via her publicist as reported at CNN: "Yes, I misspoke," said the statement released by Stone's publicist and entitled "In my own words by Sharon Stone."  "I could not be more regretful of that mistake. It was unintentional. I apologize. Those words were never meant to be hurtful to anyone," Stone said. "They were an accident of my distraction and a product of news sensationalism."

Is there such a thing as karma?  Maybe, but why is it localized to China?

(SCMP)  Karmic conspiracies don't seem to square.  Tom Plate.  June 03, 2008.

So now it's Sharon Stone. Before her, it was Steven Spielberg. And before them, there was Richard Gere. These are America's high pontificators - the Hollywood Squares of the world situation. They like to offer their special wisdom on what China is doing wrong, especially in Tibet. They like it so very much when people all over the globe actually take them seriously and listen to them. They especially like it when China takes them seriously by getting furious with them.

As for us ordinary Americans - well, whatever would we do without them? Stone offered the Cannes Film Festival crowd this in-depth analysis of the tension in Tibet: "I'm not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else. And then the earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma? When you're not nice, that the bad things happen to you?"

Wow, what a great thought! Stone has this new theory that earthquakes are caused by bad government policies. Stop laughing so hard. It is just theoretically conceivable that she is right. If she is, let us consider the enormously consequential implications.

For example, I live in Southern California, also known as Big Earthquake Country. We are all waiting for the Big One. We assume that, some day, it will come. But maybe - just maybe - if we had better government policies, we'd have fewer quakes here? Maybe if the US pulled out of Iraq and finally improved its public schools and was whatever to immigrants ...

If this is the case, then why are the Hollywood Squares wasting their advice on China and its earthquakes. What about California and its earthquakes?  If they would just, for once, turn the focus and policy-brilliance on what America (and specifically California) is doing wrong karma-wise, then perhaps we can avoid having to endure Mother Nature at her worst.

In addition to warmly welcoming Stone's advice about counter-productive karmic government policies here, I'd like to widen that invitation to all the Hollywood Squares who have advice for foreign governments.  However, my advice is this: maybe we Americans ought to work harder to get our own backyard in really good shape before we start nagging faraway neighbourhoods about their shortcomings.

After the May 12 earthquake, rescuers dug out a young girl from the rubble.  Her leg was severely injured.  But she did not cry.  The rescue team brought her down to the emergency aid station.  She laid on the ground, her left leg soaked in blood.  But she did not cry.  When the rescuers moved her body, she bit her tongue and comforted everybody by saying: "Be brave!

There is a photo taken by an unknown volunteer who captured the moment with a mobile telephone. The photo was posted on the Internet together with the volunteer's description and it has touched an untold number of people.

Now the Chinese netizens and the mainstream media are trying to find this little girl.  On May 29, a poster of this girl with the smiling was posted in the cities of Shifang and Mianzhu.  First of all, a photo of the girl has been found.  The hospital was identified to be the Shifang People's Hospital.  A nurse recalled inserting the drop needle.  She said the girl did not shed a single tear, she was strong and she smiled at the hospital staff.  "When I saw that she was so strong at her age, I was encouraged.  I should be able to do my job no matter how hard it is.  With good children like her, there is nothing that I cannot endure."  The girl was transferred elsewhere later on.  There was not enough time to register her at this hospital as many more wounded people needed to be treated.

The man in the photo is a municipal administrator, and he has been founded.  On May 12, he went to the Shifang People's Hospital to volunteer.  The hospital was overwhelmed with several thousand injured  people.  The major job of the volunteers was to help move some of the injured people to hospitals outside the Shifeng area.  At the time, the little girl was lying next to the new lobby hall.  "The little girl had strength and hope in her eyes.  When we lifted her up, we were afraid of causing pain to her.  The little girl bit her tongue and used a weak voice to tell us: 'Be brave!'  I will never forget that.  Everybody at the scene had tears in their eyes.  We lifted her carefully into the ambulance.  Regrettable, I don't know where they took her.

The searchers have not been able to find the girl so far.  "Perhaps we may never find her.  But during the search, we came across many touching stories.  The courage and smile of people in the face of disaster have given our broken hears a great deal of warmth and strength!"

(Apple Daily)

Apple Daily headline:
Sorrow for earthquake disaster,
remembering June 4th.

(SCMP)  Sombre June 4 marchers remember quake victims.  Albert Wong.  June 2, 2008.

The annual march seeking vindication for the democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square 19 years ago took on a solemn tone yesterday as participants refrained from chanting slogans, mourning the victims of the Sichuan earthquake instead.  ...  Police estimated that about 600 protesters took part yesterday, while organisers put the figure at close to 1,000, the lowest turnout since the deadly 1989 crackdown.

(AM 730)  The number of marchers from 2004 to 2008, according to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China and the Hong Kong Police respectively.

(Ming Pao)

The organizers announced that 990 persons marched, and that is the lowest number over the years.  Police estimated that 500 people departed from Victoria Park and 600 people arrived at Government Headquarters.

Hong Kong Alliance In Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements chairman Szeto Wah declined to comment on the number of marchers.  He only said: "It does not matter how many people were out there.  The important thing is to persist!"  He also said that the Sichuan earthquake and the June 4th incident are "very much related" because both have elements of manmade disasters.  During this natural disaster, manmade disaster was found: serious corruption.  If the manmade disaster is eliminated, then the ability to resist natural disaster would be better.  Therefore, the problems about the "tofu dreg" construction problems for schools and houses should be pursued.



(  Beijing reins in quake coverage.  By Tom Mitchell.  June 1, 2008.

The Chinese government has instructed domestic media outlets to rein in coverage of the schools that collapsed during last month’s devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, journalists familiar with the directive have told the Financial Times.

A notice was sent to media outlets across the country late last week, following a spate of reports about the collapses that killed thousands of students. Their parents blame sub-standard construction and government negligence, if not corruption, especially in areas where schools were the only structures to fail catastrophically.

Last week Southern Weekend, an investigative weekly newspaper from Guangzhou, Guangdong province, ran a report on the schools issue. Its exposé included an interview with the deputy head of Sichuan’s education department, Lin Qiang, who said the collapses could not be blamed on the quake alone.

“It is usually easier for us to write reports critical of local governments elsewhere,” said a journalist who has been sent to the quake zone from Guangdong and was advised of the government’s directive by his editors. He and other journalists asked that neither they nor their newspapers be named, because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Media directives typically flow from the central committee’s propaganda bureau through provincial and municipal Communist party committees, which control most large newspapers.

(Yazhou Zhoukan, June 8, 2008; p.30)

The Chinese government seems to be hesitant at this time.

First, on May 23, the traditional newspapers and magazines received a notice from the Central Publicity Department's Information Office to request that they should be active, positive and uplifting in their coverage of the Sichuan earthquake while downplaying negative issues.

Next, on May 27, the various portals received a ban order from the State Council's Information Office.  The order spelled out explicitly what should not be published, although it is not certain that the order can be implemented.  For example, the following subjects are banned:

  • "tofu dregs" school buildings that collapsed during the earthquake
  • the earthquake had been predicted by certain professionals beforehand
  • the government was feeble and late in its relief effort
  • the disaster relief materials were inappropriately distributed
  • the earthquake represent the wrath of the gods

Do these bans really exist?  If so, are they being observed?  If so, what are the potential effects?  What are the orders different for the Internet and traditional media?  Those questions are too broad for me to answer.  I'll just stick to the three long articles that I have translated over this past weekend.

  • The Dream And Reality Of Earthquake Prediction  Fang Zhouzi wrote an article in China Youth Daily about the so-called predictions about the Wenchuan earthquake and reviewed the state of the 'science' of earthquake prediction around the world.  Surprisingly, he gets criticised by a Beijing Evening News commentator.  Fang's rebuttal was published in the website.  The fact is that there have been much uninformed talk about those predictions on the Internet.  Imposing a ban is only going to convince people that the predictors were right.  It was important to have a comprehensive review out there in mainstream media for the public to read and discuss on the Internet.  It would be a mistake to have an outright ban on all mentions in the Internet and/or traditional media.
  • The Mianzhu Highway Robbery  A truck filled with disaster relief materials (tents and sweaters) was looted in Mianzhu city.  The story was posted on the Internet first, along with photos of the smilling looters.  Netizens promptly asked human flesh search engines to track the perpetrators down.  The police joined in the investigation and located the looters, who turned out to be disaster victims as well.  The tents have been returned.  The investigating police officer posted the results on the Internet.  The Southern Metropolis Daily reporter went out and spoke to the looters, the police officer and checked out the scene of the crime, thus confirming the details of the story.  It would be a mistake to have an outright ban about this incident in the Internet and/or traditional media.
  • Why Did the Building Collapse?  The classroom building at the Fuxin Number Two Elementary School collapsed in less than 10 seconds when the earthquake stuck and 127 children were killed.  Internet opinion immediately fingered this as a "tofu dreg" building.  But is it?  Southern Weekend reporters interviewed school officials, government officials, the architects, the building contractors and the parents to reconstruct the entire history of that building.  The answer turns out to be a lot more complex than bloggers pounding on the keyboard saying "kill the corrupt officials."  It would be a mistake to have an outright ban about this incident in the Internet and/or traditional media.

This earthquake showed that Internet users can respond very quickly to emergency situations such as an earthquake.  The Internet users are many in numbers and can coalesce into a powerful, even fearsome, force on many issues concurrently.  For example, it can be a huge pressure group to 'coerce' donations from corporations and celebrities.  But the Internet is also weak in that it lacks the resources to explore issues in depth.  Thus, the Internet can bring attention to claims of earthquake predictions, a case of looting or the suspicious lethal collapse of a classroom building.  The means to dig out the truth behind is still left up to the traditional media with their resources, skills and circulation.

[in partial translation]

... In previous natural disasters or protests, Hong Kong media reporters were subjected to fairly tough restrictions, including being detained by the police, confiscation of films and expulsion ... At the Sichuan earthquake, they were suddenly very free ...

Compared to many previous experiences, the Sichuan earthquake saw the authorities adopted a policy of "not controlling the media."  The reporters were allowed to observe the rescue effort, even interviewing victims trapped under the debris awaiting rescue.

According to Hong Kong-based Reuters reporter Ip Ying-kit, the authorities were too obliging toward the media this time.  When reporters get too close to the rescue scene, they interfere with the rescue work itself.  There should have been police lines to protect the safety of everybody.

The Sichuan earthquake experience also posed huge  physical and psychological challenge to the Hong Kong reporters.  They do not have the experience of covering large-scale disasters to begin with.  For the earthquake, many of them left in haste and they underestimated the destructive power of the earthquake.  Ip Ying-kit said that the Hong Kong reporters were inadequately equipped, for medicine, hiking footwear and tents.

One Hong Kong reporter wore a pair of wading boots.  The heavy rains had turned the mountain trails into mud.  This reporter slipped and his legs were covered with mud.  The rescue workers helped him to get up, but his ankle was severely sprained.  It took him more than an hour to reach the destination with a cane.

Another photojournalist wore a windblazer and took a taxi from Chengdu to Wolong.  He did not understand the local geography and weather.  The vehicle went through the bumpy mountain roads up the 4,000 meter plus Balong Mountain.  The temperature plunged and he had symptoms of altitude sickness.  Fortunately, the engineers repairing the road to Wolong gave him some aid.  He spent a very cold night at a barren dormitory room.  He could never imagine such an experience when he was working in Hong Kong.

Many Hong Kong reporters also did not have any crisis awareness.  The road to the epicenter Wenchuan had been destroyed in places, so it took more than ten hours to walk from Dujiangyan to Yingxiu town on the edge of Wenchuan.  There were no lighting on the way and it also involved going through a tunnel that was a risk for collapse.  Some reporters did not bring enough water and had to retreat due to physical exhaustion.

Many of the young reporters sent out to the front line were emotionally distressed at the sights of so many corpses brought out from underneath the rubble.  One Hong Kong reporter who had been to Beichuan said that he was travelling in the dark and he had to scale the large rocks that had fallen down the slopes.  He stepped on soft human bodies many times.  There were also cries for help from everywhere.  He was very depressed.

Many physically and psychologically fatigued reporters also had to deal with the demands from the editorial departments in Hong Kong, including writing about their personal adventures as well as getting photos of them working at the scene.

Very few media organizations were equipped with satellite telephones.  So when the mobile telephone networks went down, they were helpless.  Two reporters heading towards Wenchuan lost contact with their companies for two days.

This magnitude 8 earthquake offered a small opening in free news gathering.  It also let the Hong Kong reporters gain an awareness of the perils of disaster coverage ...

(Gunner's blog)

On the fifth day after the earthquake, my colleagues were going to head for Yingxiu town while I was going to Pengzhou and Mianzhu ... communications were broken off on the road to Wenchuan ...

Around the evening, the company learned that they had arrived in  Yingxiu and will be returning the same day (instead of sleeping there).  There had been a serious argument between them and the company about whether to advance or retreat.  The colleagues thought that the road was too dangerous.  If they fall down the mountainside or even have a simple ankle sprain, the People's Liberation Army would have to help them, thus increasing the burden of the rescue workers.  But the company thought that since other television stations were there, we had to be there too in order not to lose.  But in the end, my colleagues insisted and the company could not force them.

In the evening, I had returned to Chengdu.  The company called me and we had a heated argument over whether "to advance or retreat." Later, I learned that they had asked my two colleagues to advance towards Wenchuan county town.  Here I need to explain an incorrect idea that most Hong Kong media and people held about the Sichuan earthquake.  Several days after the earthquake, the information from the local Sichuan media and people showed that the center of the earthquake ws somewhere between Yingxiu and Xuankou towns and not at Wenchuan county town.  An analogy with Hong Kong geography would be that Dujiangyan is Stanley, Yingxiu/Xuankou is Central and Wenchuan county city is Luowu.  My colleagues had already reached the center of the disaster area.  Why would you ask them to keep moving ahead?  I explained this repeatedly to my boss but his response implied that I was misinformed.  I was not getting through to him.  Meanwhile, the card value on the mobile phone was diminishing, the body of the mobile phone was heating up and the divergence of opinions was getting wider.  Then he said: "Tomorrow, it is your turn to go in."  He added: "The Hong Kong people are holding great esteem for the Hong Kong reporters.  Even the Chief Executive says so.  But only our colleagues do not want to work hard and they won't move ahead."

When I heard that, I lost control and I collapsed.  All the inner repressed feelings accumulated from the tragic sights over the past few days exploded.  It broke my heart that this was how the boss looked at the colleagues who were risking their lives in the frontlines for the sake of the job.  I said without hesitation:  "You may insist that I go there.  But I have to tell you that I will make my own choice.

The other side had nothing to say.  Shortly afterwards, I received a call from the colleague in Yingxiu: "The other colleague is injured and hospitalized." So finally, the company rescinded the demand for me to go to  Yingxiu again tomorrow.

Does it take an injury (or even death) for the people who are sitting in a 25-degree air-conditioned room to wake up?