San Francisco residents are shocked to learn that in Hong Kong, grieving Asian family members and activists held rallies on Sunday, calling for a thorough and open investigation into the fatal train crash in Wenzhou, China on July 23 that killed at least 40 people and injured almost 200. There has been widespread dismay at the leadership in Beijing’s poor handling of the tragedy involving two high-speed trains that collided on the outskirts of the city of Wenzhou, in the worst accident yet to hit China’s rapidly growing high-speed train network. Ironically, the Chinese Communist Party, which celebrated its 90th birthday on July 28th, also issued a gag order to the media that day.
Leung Kwok Hung, a lawmaker from the League of Social Democrats told international journalists by phone, ‘We want a thorough investigation,’ after leading two dozen L.S.D. party members in a march to the China liaison office in the southern Chinese island city. Hung stated, ‘We want the Chinese government to appoint respected individuals and form an independent committee to investigate this tragedy in a transparent manner. You can’t rely on the railway authorities to do the job,’
The protesters placed a wreath and jasmine flowers – a symbol that has been linked to calls for uprisings in mainland China echoing those in the Arab world – outside the liaison office and observed a minute’s silence for the dead.
The Chinese Communist party is fighting back against public criticism of China’s recent deadly high-speed train crash, imposing a media ban. International media have exposed this disturbing political move by the government in the face of China’s national news blackout. Chinese authorities issued a censorship order late on Friday, banning all coverage of the crash “except positive news or information released by the authorities”. The ban came after state media published rare criticism of authorities over their response to the July 23 crash, which called into question the fast expansion of China’s high-speed rail network. “After the serious rail traffic accident on July 23, overseas and domestic public opinions have become increasingly complicated,” the order from the Publicity Department of the Communist Party said.
The aura of corruption in China’s railways has been growing since February when railways minister Liu Zhijun was fired and placed under investigation for allegedly embezzling about $100 million.
California travelers to China need to be aware that trains in China remain problematic for secure, safe travel, until the government comes clean on the reasons for a head-on collision on a new, supposedly state-of-the-art railway.