China still finds it hard to reveal bad news

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The public's right to know is often non—existent in the Middle Kingdom. The aftermath of a massive explosion  a petrochemical plant in northeast China shows that too many Communist officials still maintain a "we—know—best" attitude. The SARS disaster less than to years ago featured the same sort of behavior, and became an international embarrassment, as this event will too.

The problems started on November 13 in the city of Jilin.  For days after the explosion at a plant operated by the Jilin Petroleum and Chemical Company, the company maintained that no poisonous substances had spilled into the nearby Songhua River.

While ordinary citizens can be held liable for spreading 'false news' and 'state secrets', the powers that be seem to believe they have a license to cover—up unpleasant information to protect their own interests. This old habit is taking a long time to die. And in the age of the internet and satellite television, it will always be counter—productive.

Since its reform and opening policies started over 25 years, China has often push economic development at expense of ecological protection.  CNN International reports:

Critics say the Chinese government waited too long to inform the people of Harbin and officials in Russia, where the pollution is expected to arrive in about two weeks.

The government, which blamed CNPC for the disaster, didn't publicly confirm the river was polluted until 10 days after the accident.

Besides the potential for an environmental disaster, the incident has turned into a public relations disaster for China, which until the past two days had not given residents timely information about the approaching spill.

In an effort to appease the public, government officials, in a rare turnaround, began offering hourly updates.

The polluted water from likely will reach the Heilongjiang River, called the Amur River in Russia, on the Sino—Russian border in around 14 days judging from the current flow speed, Xinhua reported.

"China is very concerned about the possible hazards to Russia and has informed its neighbor several times of the pollution," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a news conference.

"Both have pledged to cooperate closely to handle the pollution."


I hope local government officials learn a fast lesson in the importance of honesty and transparency.  The number of outbreaks of bird flu is increasing with each passing day.        

Brian Schwarz   11 26 05

The public's right to know is often non—existent in the Middle Kingdom. The aftermath of a massive explosion  a petrochemical plant in northeast China shows that too many Communist officials still maintain a "we—know—best" attitude. The SARS disaster less than to years ago featured the same sort of behavior, and became an international embarrassment, as this event will too.

The problems started on November 13 in the city of Jilin.  For days after the explosion at a plant operated by the Jilin Petroleum and Chemical Company, the company maintained that no poisonous substances had spilled into the nearby Songhua River.

While ordinary citizens can be held liable for spreading 'false news' and 'state secrets', the powers that be seem to believe they have a license to cover—up unpleasant information to protect their own interests. This old habit is taking a long time to die. And in the age of the internet and satellite television, it will always be counter—productive.

Since its reform and opening policies started over 25 years, China has often push economic development at expense of ecological protection.  CNN International reports:

Critics say the Chinese government waited too long to inform the people of Harbin and officials in Russia, where the pollution is expected to arrive in about two weeks.

The government, which blamed CNPC for the disaster, didn't publicly confirm the river was polluted until 10 days after the accident.

Besides the potential for an environmental disaster, the incident has turned into a public relations disaster for China, which until the past two days had not given residents timely information about the approaching spill.

In an effort to appease the public, government officials, in a rare turnaround, began offering hourly updates.

The polluted water from likely will reach the Heilongjiang River, called the Amur River in Russia, on the Sino—Russian border in around 14 days judging from the current flow speed, Xinhua reported.

"China is very concerned about the possible hazards to Russia and has informed its neighbor several times of the pollution," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a news conference.

"Both have pledged to cooperate closely to handle the pollution."


I hope local government officials learn a fast lesson in the importance of honesty and transparency.  The number of outbreaks of bird flu is increasing with each passing day.        

Brian Schwarz   11 26 05