On July 23 2011, a train crash near Wenzhou on the high speed rail network killed 40 people and created a public controversy that has not yet died down.
Below is a translation of The one year anniversary of the July 23 high-speed train accident, a document was posted to the Internet by Manzi Digest, an iPhone and iPad news app based on the Weibo tweets of angel investor and Weibo celebrity Charles Xue aka Xue Manzi. The document is a compilation of Internet postings, photos and writings about the crash and its aftermath.
US radio show On the Media broadcast a segment on the crash and media coverage of it, including an interview with Danwei’s Jeremy Goldkorn: Whether you believe it or not, I believe it!.
For more about the crash as it was reported when it happened one year ago, see the archives of live blogging at Shanghaiist: Wenzhou high-speed rail collision and Wang Yongping on why Wenzhou trains were instantly buried.
The one year anniversary of the 23rd July high-speed train accident
The actual facts make for the best memorial
July 23, 2012
By Manzi Digest
REVISITING A NIGHT OF LIFE AND DEATH
Below are Weibo postings from the night of the crash, mostly from people who were on the ill-fated trains
@Smm_苗: The train running after the thunderstorm, what’s going on here? It crawls slower than a snail….but nothing’s happened.
20:27, 7 minutes before the accident – censored
@袁小芫: D301 has had an accident in Wenzhou, the train did an emergency brake, followed by a violent crash. There were two more collisions! The electricity across the entirety of the train has gone out!!! I’m in the last carriage, thank God I’m fine! This is just too terrifying!! 20:38, 4 minutes after the accident – 1407 retweets
@羊圈圈羊: A cry for help! Train D301 has been derailed not far from Wenzhou station. Children are crying up and down the carriage, and not one member of staff has come out! Hurry up and save us!
20:47, 13 minutes after the accident – censored, more than 100,000 retweets
@袁小芫: It’s being said that the viaduct has collapsed, with the front four carriages having fallen off. Our last two carriages have already been detached. Too terrifying. I am incredibly lucky that I’m fine. Half an hour has already passed. It’s very stuffy inside the carriage. We can’t break the windows open.
21:13, 20 minutes after the accident – 398 retweets
@Sam是我: Classmates, save us quickly!!! All the passengers of train D3115 have been derailed!! The accident happened near Wenzhou South station!!! The train isn’t safe either. After the crash those involved in the accident have all started walking around!! This is a cry for help!!! Help us!!! Those seeing this post please help by quickly retweeting!!!
20:27, half an hour after the accident – censored
@摄影师小刀的地盘: A rescue of unbreakable will
21:41, one hour after the accident – 2,644 retweets
@羊圈圈羊: The police came and saved us! We’ve already come down from the high speed rail track. God be praised!!!
22:45, two hours after the accident, the first Weibo concerning the rescue itself – 8,914 retweets
@yaoyaosz: We troops are lined up to the door (of the blood donation centre), it’s a late night rally for Wenzhou, it’s moving.
00:47, 4 hours after the accident, the most moving Weibo – 110,000 retweets
PLEASE NEVER FORGET THESE CONTROVERSIES
1. The search and rescue effort was halted after 8 hours
On the July 24 at 7:40 AM, the CCTV program Chaowen Tianxia reported, “Four hours ago in the early hours of this morning, the principal search and rescue effort ceased.”
From the time of the accident up to this point eight hours had passed. During these eight hours a total of six passenger rescue attempts were undertaken, the entire search and rescue operation was then ceased… (denied by official sources)
2. What will always move people are the people themselves
Two hours after the accident occurred, the government published an appeal for blood donations on Weibo. Within a short period of time upwards of 1,000 netizens were on the way to blood donation centers. Netizen @yaoyaosz’s Weibo posts from the scene of a blood donation clinic were retweeted more than 100,000 times.
12 hours after the accident, the amount of chatter regarding the incident had already surpassed two million postings, included half a million Weibo postings seeking information about victims.
@浙江卫生厅、@浙江省血液中心 and many other official Weibos were tweeting information in real-time over the course of the night.
3. Little Yiyi, orphan of the entire country
Little Yiyi, real name Xiang Weiyi, was two and a half years old in 2011 and was from Wenzhou herself. On the night of the Wenzhou train crash she was the last “miracle girl” to be saved, her parents had already been confirmed as dead. On the morning of the July 28, Premier Wen Jiabao arrived at Wenzhou Hospital’s pediatric ward to pay a visit to Yiyi.
On August 14 , a member of Little Yiyi’s family published an open letter titled ‘Please help Yiyi keep her legs!’ and sent it to the Department of Railways. It pleaded with the government and medical experts to help Little Yiyi. The Department of Railways invited medical experts from Beijing to visit Wenzhou and to treat Little Yiyi. On the August 16, the Department of Health again invited four experts to visit Wenzhou for a consultation. On the October 18, the stitches on Yiyi’s left leg were removed, and she began learning to walk all over again. On the December 22, Yiyi completed her medical treatment, and was able to return home to celebrate Chinese New Year.
4. Whether you believe it or not, I believe it!
Wang Yongping is from Hengyang in Hunan, and was originally head and spokesman for the Ministry of Railways Propaganda Department. During the Wenzhou train crash press conferences, he was at one point asked why they had buried one of the train compartments the day after the crash before a proper investigation could take place. He said that the carriage was buried to facilitate rescue operations, and added, “Whether you believe it or not, I believe it!” He also answered a journalist’s question as to how the orphan Little Yiyi was found after an announcement that there were no further survivors by saying “I can only say that it’s a miracle!”.
His statements were heatedly debated amongst netizens, and became internet memes in the vein of “My father is Li Gang” or “Very yellow, very violent.” On August 16, the Ministry of Railways revealed that Wang Yongping no longer held the position of official spokesperson, and instead had been sent to Poland to serve as the Chinese representative in the China-Poland rail cooperation initiative.
5. It wasn’t a railway carriage that was buried, it was the truth!
On the July 24 (the day after the accident), Wang Yongping stated that wreckage would be buried underground, since this was most convenient in terms of emergency response. Soon after the Ministry of Railways’s method of digging a pit and burying the wreckage were called into question by the public. They believed it was done to destroy evidence as well as to quickly free up the highspeed railway line.
There was an investigative report: The Shanghai Railway Department’s Vice-President of Operations Wang Feng was in charge of the rescue operations conducted under the viaduct after the accident. He was blamed as handling the emergency rescue effort in an unsatisfactory manner in order to smooth things over. He had cleaned up the site, and dug a pit at the site of the rescue effort itself, intending to bury the scattered wreckage of carriages from D301. Despite his preparations, his plans were ended by relevant Party members who stopped their implementation.
6. Don’t shift the blame of the accident onto the heroic conductor
Pan Yiheng was born on July 13, 1973. He was a native of Jin’An in the city of Fuzhou. He was the conductor of the train D301 from Beijing to Fuzhou; on the night of July 23 at approximately 20:30 he laid down his life when his train D301 on the Hangshen line collided with the D3115 train. When armed police pulled Pan Yiheng from the massively deformed cockpit of the train, he was already dead. His stomach had been pierced by the brake. At the critical moment, he was not focused on saving his own skin but rather decisively applied the emergency brake system. At the time of collision, the train’s speed had already decreased from 201km/h to 160 km/h, resulting in many carriages avoiding a horrible end. He died at his post to give the passengers at the back of the train another shot at life.
A scholar from the China Construction Institute, Beijing Communication University’s lecturer Wang Mengshu, shifted the blame for the rail crash onto Pan Yiheng. He stated that the D3115 train had stopped at a platform to avoid [a collision with another] train, but because perhaps Pan Yiheng was sleepy at he wheel, he did not notice. Pan Yiheng’s colleague (who happens to be the father of famous actress and Weibo personality Yao Chen) was very angry with these remarks.
7. The Prime Minister was unwell, he finally came 5 days later…
People’s Republic of China State Council Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived at the site of the ‘7-23’ Wenzhou train crash on July 28 at 12:30, meeting with foreign and domestic reporters. Wen Jiabao stated:
This accident makes us recognise more acutely that development and construction are all for the people, and what is most important are the people’s lives, it also makes us recognise that a government’s greatest responsibility is to protect people’s safety of life.
After the accident occurred, Premier Hu Jintao at once pointed out that the rescuing of victims was top priority. On receiving the news I immediately gave the Ministry of Railways a telephone call, they can confirm that I only said two words: ‘Save the people’.
When I was just meeting with family members of the deceased, they also brought up similar concerns. I think that in taking care of the accident the greatest concern was the saving of life, saving life by every means possible. Or there’s that old saying, as long as there’s a glimmer of hope, then there will exist hundred times more effort. The Ministry of Railways will give the masses a frank answer as to whether their relevant organs achieved this goal.
8. Our loved ones’ bones aren’t even cold, and they’re talking about money
After the accident, the Ministry of Railways actively sought out the family members of victims to discuss compensation. Contrary to the Ministry’s expectation,s this brought about disgust amongst family members: our loved ones’ bones aren’t even cold, and they’re talking about money.
Is it the Ministry of Railways (railways is tielu 铁路, literally ‘iron road’) or in fact the Ministry of Iron Hearts? In discussions with Zheng Hangzheng’s family members, two middle-aged officials representing the Ministry of Railways arrived and “pulled out a 2007 Ministry of Railways document and starting reading from top to bottom. From 172,000, to 500,000… On July 29 the compensation benchmark all of a sudden jumped to 915,000 yuan. The “real miracle” [a reference to spokesperson Wang Yongping’s comment] of this railway crash is the amount of compensation involved.”
9. Technical problems
Before the accident did the meteorological office publish a yellow-alert thunder and lightning warning? What equipment did lightning strikes actually damage? Was a train struck by a lightning bolt resulting in a loss of power? Or was it an ineffective railway controller: did the train behind not receive the message that the train in front had stopped at the station? At the moment of impact where was the automatic locking system? Why was D301 travelling along behind? Why is it that although the accident had not been fully dealt with the line was re-opened? Why were there no seatbelts in the carriage? The “brake time” of trains is how long? http://t.cn/ajykrL [Link to Sina article about citizen questions about the train crash]
10. Investigative report… We’ve waited a long long time
On December 28, 2011, the State Council released their “7:23” inquiry into the major accident on the Yongwen railway line. The investigation maintains that the “7:23” accident on the Yongwen railway line was caused by a serious design flaw in the train control center equipment, lax application of regulations, an equipment failure caused by a lightning strike as well as negligent emergency response actions.
Former Ministry of Railways Minister Liu Zhijun, Vice Minister Lu Dongfu and Chief Engineer He Huawu are part of a list of 54 names who are responsible for the accident and have been dealt with severely. Since Ma Cheng, chairman of the boards of the Signaling Group and Signaling Holding Company passed away recently due to illness, there has been no further investigation into his responsibility for the accident. The report in its entirety is here.
ONCE AGAIN, GIVE THEM A MOMENT OF SILENCE
A list of names of the deceased from the trains D3115 and D301
Official figures as of 12:00 July 29, 2011
Number Name Gender Origin
1. Huang Yuchun female Fujian, Fuzhou
2. Lu Haitian male Anhui, Wuwei
3. Cao Erxing male US citizen, birthplace Fujian
4. Liguori Assunta Italian Naples
5. Zhuo Huang male Fujian, Fuzhou
6. Jin Xianyang male Zhejiang, Pingyang
7. Jin Yangxhong male Zhejiang, Pingyang
8. Mao Feifei female Zhejiang, Pingyang
9. Wen Aiping female Zhejiang, Pingyang
10. Chen Bi female Zhejiang, Pingyang
11. Chen Xi female Zhejiang, Pingyang
12. Zhou Rente male
13. Zhang Xiuyan female Fujian, Lianjiang
14. Xu Peipei female Henan, Shancai
15. Hao Naiggang male Tianjin, Beichen
16. Chen Yunying male Fujian, Jinan
17. Zhu Ping female Zhejiang, Lucheng
18. Li Jianzhong male Zhejiang, Lucheng
19. Hu Weipeng male Fujian, Fuzhou
20. Xiang Yu’an male Zhejiang, Lucheng
21. Shi Lihong female Zhejiang, Ouhai
22. Jin Jianfeng male Zhejiang, Ruan
23. Chen Yue female Zhejiang, Ruan
24. Jin Wenbo male
25. Jian Zhengtong male Zhejiang, Wenling
26. Su Xiaotu male Zhejiang, Pingyang
27. Lin Xiao male Fujian, Fuzhou
28. Chen Yijie female Hangzhou, Xiacheng
29. Zhao Lisong male Fujian, Fuzhou
30. Chen Caifu male Fujian, Chengle
31. Chen Hongpeng male Fujian, Chengle
32. Lin Yan male Fujian, Fuzhou
33. Mu Linan female Beijing, Shunyi
34. Zheng Hangzheng male Fujian Lianjiang
35. Chen Zhiping male Zhejiang, Lucheng
36. Lu Hong Yan female Hunan, Changsha
37. Zeng Guojun male Zhejiang, Ru’an
38. Chen Zengrong male, US citizen, birthplace Fujian
39. Pan Yiheng male Fujian
40. Chen Wei male Fujian
A STUDY OF LIFE THROUGH PICTURES
We pay our respect to these media.
A MICROBLOG REALITY CHECK
By @重大换: (This translation courtesy of The New York Times):
China, please stop your flying pace, wait for your people, wait for your soul, wait for your morality, wait for your conscience! Don’t let the train run out off track, don’t let the bridges collapse, don’t let the roads become traps, don’t let houses become ruins. Walk slowly, allowing every life to have freedom and dignity. No one should be left behind by our era.
Today’s message: Forgetting the past is a betrayal — Lenin
Danwei is an affiliate of the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University. This posting is a result of one project that is part of that on-going collaboration.