In the aftermath of Saturday’s Yaan Earthquake, which killed more than 189 people in China’s Sichuan province, the country’s internet censors have tightened control, stemming some false rumors (such as Beijing demanding a five million yuan toll from Taiwan’s Red Cross rescuers) — but also quashing dissent.
Some images paint a grim picture of need among survivors.
Other conversations on Weibo, the country’s most popular social network, seek to track corruption. China’s massive “human search engine” has long crowdsourced information to expose official corruption and draw attention to hypocrisies in official statements. The earthquake’s aftermath has been no different. Debates rage around whether the actor Jet Li’s One Foundation is a more embezzlement-proof donation fund than the Red Cross of China, and whether some officials have acted too flippantly in times of national mourning.
The site Free Weibo monitors and saves censored messages from the Twitter-like microblogging service. Below are some of the topics and images currently under close scrutiny and lockdown:
Photos taken from Chaoyang Township by Weibo users. Netizens have warmly praised the relief efforts of the army, as well as private organizations like Samsung and Wong Lo Kat. However, protests are erupting in remote townships that are only beginning to see water and rations after Saturday’s quake.
Footage from Hong Kong’s Apple Daily reporters interviewing Lushan County quake victims.
This boycott notice has been widely reblogged (and censored) on Weibo as an ongoing conversation about reliable donation funds. So many in China have volunteered for earthquake relief that the Beijing Morning Post urged volunteers not to “add to the chaos.”
Hong Kong’s Apple Daily criticized Macau’s government for “blindly donating” 100 million yuan to Beijing, citing 2008’s Wenchuang earthquake relief debacle, where Hong Kong’s donations were allegedly misused to purchase fleets of luxury cars for county officials, and a Hong Kong–funded middle school was torn down to build luxury condos.
Many have taken to donating to Jet Li’s One Foundation, which has received 15 million RMB in donations. Others balk at Jet Li’s ideological alignments, accusing him of sympathizing with Tibet and Taiwan.
Photos of official fetes after the quake (as well as officials allegedly downplaying their wealth) have circulated particularly widely, often uploaded alongside photos of survivors’ poverty. Weibo has been removing these photos and comments as they crop up.
All posts linking to reports of the Zipingpu Dam’s possible effects on the area’s fault lines are being censored.