BEIJING: Chinese authorities face growing public fury over the high-speed train crash that killed at least 38 people and injured 192, with the disposal of wreckage and attempts to control coverage of the incident prompting allegations of a cover-up.
The railway ministry has apologised for the collision in eastern Zhejiang province and announced an inquiry. Spokesman Wang Yongping said: ”China’s high-speed rail technology is up to date and up to standard, and we still have faith in it.”
Web users attacked the government’s response to the disaster after authorities muzzled media coverage and urged reporters to focus on rescue efforts. ”We have the right to know the truth!” wrote one microblogger ”kangfu xiaodingdang”. ”That’s our basic right!”
Leaked propaganda directives ordered journalists not to investigate the causes, and footage emerged of bulldozers shovelling dirt over carriages.
Mr Wang said no one could or would bury the story.
He said a colleague told him the wreckage was needed to fill in a muddy ditch to make rescue efforts easier.
But Hong Kong University’s China Media Project said propaganda authorities have ordered the media not to send reporters to the scene, not to report too frequently and not to link the story to high-speed rail development.
”There must be no seeking after the causes [of the accident], rather, statements from authoritative departments must be followed,” said one directive. Another ordered: ”No calling into doubt, no development [of further issues], no speculation, and no dissemination [of such things] on personal microblogs!”
Officials also ordered more coverage of ”extremely moving” stories such as blood donations, and said the overall theme should be ”great love in the face of great disaster”.
Beijing sees high-speed rail as a matter of national prestige, highlighting China’s development, but critics appear to see the disaster as symptomatic of the country’s problems. Internet users repeatedly described the crash as a man-made disaster and blamed officials.
China’s railway system has been regarded as having a generally good safety record, although 72 people died in 2008 when an express train from Beijing to Qingdao derailed.