- 28, 2010
1,800 people died in the quake that hit Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
students from Southwest Minzu University seek donations for earthquake relief in Chengdu.
Photo by treasuresthouhast (Creative Commons).
in China’s southern Qinghai province on April 14. Many thousands were
injured and an estimated 100,000 are homeless. Our sympathies are with the
people of Yushu and we cheer those working hard to
assist them. A partial list of organizations soliciting funds to aid Yushu is below.
The death toll might have been greater but for the fact that the 7:49 am quake
struck well before the start of the work or school day. Clocks in Qinghai, like those throughout China,
are set to Beijing time, but since Yushu is 1,905 kilometers (1,190 miles) west of Beijing, sunrise was
about 7:05 am. Qinghai
is a poor province and Yushu is an especially poor
area. According to 2009 government statistics, Yushu’s
per capita GDP was $1,455, about 39% of the $3,742 national average. Not
surprisingly, many homes were built using unreinforced
cement blocks or mud bricks. The quake reduced many of these to rubble. In one
town, Jiegu, 85% of the homes are said to have been
destroyed. Karamibu, a Tibetan plateau-based
photographer visited Jiegu on April 17.
Chinese authorities quickly dispatched large numbers of rescue
and relief workers, machinery, and supplies. The challenges are many,
including the altitude (Yushu is 4,000 meters (13,125
feet) above sea level), below freezing nighttime temperatures, and language
problems. Almost all (97%) of Yushu’s roughly 300,000
residents are Tibetan. The government reported it was bringing in 500
translators to help.
Quickly and effectively responding to such emergencies has become a priority
leaders. And conveying this to the masses has become a core mission of China’s state
media. Premier Wen Jiabao
visited the area right away, telling rescuers to push harder in their search
for survivors. Standing on a pile of debris he told the people of Yushu “your suffering is our suffering.” Earlier today,
Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao, having cut short a trip to Latin
America, flew in to Yushu. Chinese
television broadcast scenes from his visit, including a stop at a makeshift
hospital, where he told an injured high school student that she had a bright
future and that “Grandpa will be thinking of you.” Senior party leader Li Changchun hurried back from Turkey
to meet with media chiefs in Beijing.
Li began by offering an evaluation of their coverage. He said they’d done a
good job of showing the progress of relief work, highlighting Hu Jintao’s leadership and the
party’s policy of putting people first, and displaying the work of the army and
others. Li stressed that the media needed to make solidarity across ethnic
lines a central message as well.
Ethnic unrest broke out in Yushu and in many other
places on the Tibetan plateau in 2008. There have been no reports of violence
between Tibetans and others in the aftermath of the earthquake, but some
foreign news organizations report that suspicions and tensions remain. The New
York Times described an instance where an army crew, which had given up
searching, pushed a group of monks aside so that the soldiers could be filmed
rescuing a trapped girl. Monks have handled the cremation of the dead. People`s
Daily reported Friday the mobilization of religious and cultural
affairs officials to address damage to temples and hardships imposed on monks
and others. 700 year old Changde Temple
in Jiegu was among the hardest hit by the quake. Some
31 monks perished when buildings there collapsed.
The official Xinhua news site for Yushu
prefecture has not been updated since August 2009 (and even includes links
to MSN and Google). It listed Jia Yingzhong,
a Han who had been assigned to Yushu in 2000, as the
prefecture’s party secretary. A Tibetan is the prefecture head, though the site
only gives his Chinese name, Wang Yuhu 王玉虎. Yushu got a brand new
government website earlier today. Many of the links don’t yet work, but the
presence of top leaders and rescue teams is highlighted in the banner.
The South China Morning Post reported that China’s Central Publicity Office
ordered local news organizations to use centrally-cleared reports and to recall
reporters they may have dispatched to Yushu. A
similar order was issued in 2008 when Sichuan
was hit by an even more destructive quake. And as in 2008, local media
organizations seem to have at least partially ignored the order. Some idea of
the coverage can be seen by comparing the front pages of select newspapers.
news organizations have also sent reporters and camera crews to Yushu, though some have thus far elected to cover the
tragedy and responses to it from Beijing.
Resources are always constrained and news organizations must often make hard
choices in deciding which stories to pursue and in how to go about covering
These choices and the hard work of carrying them out are an important part
of the new
by Jim Laurie, then of ABC News.
USC US-China Institute documentary Assignment: China.
The documentary looks at how correspondents for American news organizations
sought to bring China
alive for print and broadcast audiences. We’re screening a rough
cut of one segment of the documentary at USC this Wednesday and hope you
will join us. This segment focuses on the period right after the US and China reestablished diplomatic
relations in 1979. The segment features interviews with reporters who did much
to shape our understanding of China
as well as one of the Chinese officials charged with managing them and one
individual eager to share an “unapproved” story. Click here to see a
three minute trailer for the segment.
There are many China-focused events and exhibitions across North
America this month. Details about them are below and in the calendar section of our website.
The website also features our Talking
Points archive (including a recent discussion
of earthquakes in East Asia and the US), our collection of documents
relating to US-China ties and contemporary China, information about fellowships
and calls for papers, and many video resources. K-12 teachers are reminded that
USCI is offering a
special one-day workshop on May 1 on using Asian case studies to teach
about human rights.
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Support for Yushu relief has come from many
organizations and government agencies. Here are three organizations accepting
donations specifically for Yushu relief:
States Fund for UNICEF
Society of China
Direct Relief International