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At least 38 people died while more than 200 were injured when two bullet trains collided in Zhejiang province on Sunday. Local television reported that the first train had been forced to stop after losing power due to a lightning strike, when it was rear-ended by another train, causing two carriages to fall off the elevated tracks.
While rescue and disposal efforts were set in motion, the Chinese authorities are facing mounting public anger over what is believed to be a ‘cover-up’ of the reasons for the collision. There has been reports that authorities have attempted to control coverage by ordering journalists not go to the scene, not to investigate causes and urging them instead to report on rescue efforts and blood donation under the banner of ‘great love in the face of great disaster’.
Microbloggers are attacking the overt pressure from propaganda authorities. “We have the right to know the truth!” wrote a web user under the name Kangfu Xiaodingdang. “That’s our basic right!”
Rail minister Sheng Guangzu has apologized for the collision and has launched a two-month nationwide safety review of the high-speed railway network. The government has also proposed compensation to relatives of the victims.
Still, the cause of the crash remains unknown and the reason for this is believed to be the propaganda directives that have muzzled investigation efforts.
“There must be no seeking after the causes [of the accident], rather, statements from authoritative departments must be followed,” read one directive, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. “No calling into doubt, no development [of further issues], no speculation, and no dissemination [of such things] on personal microblogs,” read another.
The development of high-speed railway is seen as a symbol of China’s development, but its prestige is viewed as a symptom of the country’s problem. Microbloggers blame officials for what they believe is a man-made disaster.