Chinese media tone down rail crash coverage

China`s worst ever high-speed train accident on July 23 dominated front pages last week.

Beijing: China`s state-run media on Monday complied with a ban on negative coverage of a high-speed rail crash that killed 40 people, after more than a week of unusually critical reporting.

China`s worst ever high-speed train accident on July 23 dominated front pages last week, with even The People`s Daily -- the Communist Party mouthpiece -- saying the country needed development but did not need "blood-smeared GDP".

Internet users vented their anger on popular micro-blogging sites as Beijing struggled to contain an anti-government backlash over the collision near the eastern city of Wenzhou that killed 40 people and injured nearly 200.

But the coverage changed markedly after Chinese propaganda authorities issued a directive late Friday banning everything "except positive news or information released by the authorities".

An editorial in The China Daily said while it was necessary to "plug any loopholes" in the development of high-speed rail, "over-interpretation that questions the quality of all technology made in China... is going too far".

"While the accident might have been caused by loopholes in the management system or a problem with the signalling system, unforgivable as these are, they are growing pains that will be rectified," it said.

The People`s Daily on Monday quoted an unnamed rail official as saying that the faulty signalling system blamed for the accident had been fixed.

Some newspapers reportedly scrapped their pages after Friday`s directive was issued, to comply with the order.

Chinese-language weekly The Economic Observer, however, defied the directive, printing an eight-page report headlined "No miracles in Wenzhou" and a front-page photo of the wrecked carriages with the railway ministry logo imposed over the top.

Underneath the black and white photo was a damning commentary written as a letter to Xiang Weiyi, a two-year-old girl who was discovered alive in the train wreckage 21 hours after the accident that killed her parents.

The piece titled "Yiyi, when you grow up" attacked the government over its handling of the disaster and accused it of lacking transparency and attempting to cover up evidence.

Propaganda officials, who typically move swiftly to limit coverage of major disasters that could embarrass the government, had issued an order the day after the accident telling journalists not to question the official line, but the directive was widely ignored.

Bureau Report

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