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Beijing Subway Collapse Exposes China Olympic Secrecy

Posted by Author on April 2, 2007

GEOFFREY YORK, the globe and mail, Canada, 31/03/07-

BEIJING — While a Beijing rescue team frantically searched for six buried workers in an Olympic subway cave-in this week, their bosses mounted an elaborate cover-up to prevent the police from discovering the tragedy.

The construction company forced employees to surrender their cellphones, so that nobody could report the disaster. They locked the gate, sealed the site and ordered everyone to keep quiet. When the police noticed a crowd gathering, they were told that nothing was wrong.

For almost eight hours, the Beijing subway disaster was hidden, until finally a labourer managed to reach a relative in a faraway province who told the local police. They then notified the Beijing force.

The cover-up was so extensive that it delayed the rescue effort, perhaps even costing the lives of the six workers. Rescuers recovered one body yesterday after 50 hours of digging, but five workers remained buried, state media said, and there was little hope that they would be found alive.

Ten people were later arrested, including the supervisor of the subway project and the designers of the tunnel. But the firm’s labour contractor, Zhou Yongfu, has disappeared, seemingly trying to avoid arrest.

The incident has sparked some disturbing questions about the culture of secrecy and pressure that surrounds China’s $50-billion effort to prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The tunnel collapsed during an intense campaign to build four new subway lines in time for the Olympics. At least three other stretches of subway have caved in or collapsed in the past 18 months as Beijing scrambles to finish its Olympic transit projects. Two people were killed in one cave-in at another subway location in June.

In the latest disaster, the tunnel collapsed at about 9:20 on Wednesday morning, but the authorities did not learn of it until 5 p.m.

The cover-up was exposed yesterday by several Beijing newspapers. The Beijing News, quoting a worker named Shen, said the construction company had tried to bribe the workers, offering lucrative compensation packages if they stayed quiet.

“Right after the accident, the gate of the construction site was immediately locked, and all of the workers in the rescue team were ordered not to release any details,” the newspaper reported.

“A worker recalled that one of the managers had said that they wouldn’t let anyone know about the accident, no matter how much money had to be spent.” …… (more details from the globe and mail )

One Response to “Beijing Subway Collapse Exposes China Olympic Secrecy”

  1. […] to the airport. There is also construction going on not far away from Beijing University. Last week one of the newly built tunnels collapsed and buried six workers. This shows the poor conditions under which people from the countryside are working under. The […]

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