Olympics-Chinese Media Watch: Fading memories of a recent disaster

With the Olympics preparations crowding the headlines, news related to the deadly May earthquake in Sichuan province has faded. There is still plenty to report, including the recovery effort and the bitter resentment of grieving parents who believe that faulty construction played a role in their children’s deaths.

But a search of recent Chinese news on the quake digs up mostly official publicity on, for instance, the Education Bureau’s new initiative to train teachers in the quake-affected region, the government’s commitment to delivering aid to the victims, and the official reconstruction efforts.

Much more coverage, notably, has been given to the anniversary of the Tangshan earthquake, which happened 32 years ago on July 28, 1976, and went all but unreported at the time. There is a good reason for this: The torch passed through the rejuvenated city of Tangshan today.  

Western media, meanwhile, are covering a report by New York-based advocacy organization Human Rights in China that Liu Shaokun, a teacher in Sichuan province, has been sentenced to a year of re-education through labor for posting photographs of quake-ravaged school buildings. 

A few blogs in China comment on the report. The only official news is from Deyang Ribao, a local newspaper that reported Liu had been detained for illegally protesting and disrupting the smooth reconstruction of the disaster zone.

China was initially praised for allowing reporters to cover the earthquake freely. But that openness seemed to disappear after victims’ protests began dominating western headlines.