November 26, 2005


Chinese Officials Sought to Hide Toxic Spill: Local Journalists Expose Efforts to Cover Up Contamination of Water Supplies (Philip P. Pan, November 26, 2005, Washington Post)

After another day without running water, the third this week in Harbin following an emergency shutoff caused by a massive chemical spill into the region's main river, many in the line expressed relief that help had arrived in their neighborhood. But standing in the cold, waiting their turn in front of a hose connected to the tanker, people also shared their anger.

"All of these problems are caused by the government," one man growled as he struggled to carry a huge red bucket of water back to his apartment. He began to say more, but his wife cut him off as a local official walked over, loudly praising the ruling Communist Party.

Twelve days after an estimated 100 tons of benzene and other toxic compounds poured in the Songhua River following an explosion at a state-owned petrochemical plant, the party is struggling to contain a political crisis as much as an environmental one.

Daring journalists succeeded in publishing a series of reports on Friday describing in remarkable detail the efforts by party officials to cover up the chemical spill. Among the disclosures was an admission by a provincial governor that officials in Harbin initially lied to the public about why they were shutting down the water supply, because they were awaiting instructions from senior party leaders.

On Friday night, reporters received orders from the party's central propaganda department to stop asking questions and go home. All state media were told to use the reports only of the official New China News Agency, the journalists said.

If the Party is all powerful then everything that's wrong is its fault, no? (Doesn't help that it does cause most of them...)

Spill in China Brings Danger, and Cover-Up (JIM YARDLEY, 11/26/05, NY Times)

"There Will Not Be an Earthquake in Harbin," promised a large front-page headline in The Modern Evening Times.

The strange headline, coming as nationwide attention in China is focused on the dangerous benzene and nitrobenzene spill that contaminated the local Songhua River, seemed to have been a misprint. But, instead, it was an effort to dispel the wild rumors that mushroomed after Monday, when city officials pointedly did not mention the spill of the liquid chemicals in their initial public notice shutting down the municipal water system.

The city tried to convince the public that a shutdown was necessary to conduct routine repairs on the pipes. Suspicions instantly erupted. There had already been an inexplicable rash of rumors that the government had detected signs of an earthquake. Now those rumors escalated, and enough people panicked that officials had to confirm the spill, but the public relations damage was already done.

It seems that in their efforts to hide a chemical spill, Harbin officials may have helped fuel unfounded fears of an earthquake. The provincial earthquake bureau has since issued a reassuring statement that no temblors are predicted.

"They were trying to lie and get by," Qi Guangzhong, 64, said as he walked on a promenade beside the brown waters of the Songhua on Friday. "The government wanted to hide this."

China's Cover Up of Chemical Accident Unveiled: Government had concealed knowledge of chemical plant explosion that caused major benzene spill in the Songhua River (Li Dan, 11/26/05, Epoch Times)
Ten days after the explosion, the authorities admitted for the first time that the accident had caused serious contamination of the Songhua River.

The government officials intended to conceal the facts, which caused a public outcry in mainland China, especially the victims, who are the residents of Harbin. Mr. Wang from Harbin City said that the government had never cared about the livelihood of the common person. Whether the problem can be solved in four days, or some pathological changes found in their bodies from drinking the polluted water later, is a matter for the future.

Ms. Zhao said, "Anyway, the victims are always the common people. The officials can always protect themselves. They don't view common people's lives as human lives." A web user expressed his indignation online, "The most hateful thing is that the officials bought water before they announced the situation. They bought dozens and dozens of barrels of water, while the common people waited in line at the water station for a whole day, but didn't even get a drop of water."

An article in Hong Kong's Ming Pao News stated that when dealing with something major such as this water crisis, the officials are cautious and conceal the facts. They ignore the public's right of disclosure and neglect the public's livelihood and health. The government publicized the news only after they were no longer able to conceal it. This method of dealing with the problem is the same as that in dealing with SARS and the bird flu epidemic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2005 10:44 AM


Posted by: ghostcat at November 26, 2005 12:21 PM

What ever the problem the cover up of any kind of spill is irehensable and they need to get to the matter of cleaning up the problem, a product called Hydro Weed, avaliable from Environmental Friendly Products Located in Coldwater Mi. can do the trick and save the enviromental problem of the benzene spill in china.

Posted by: Jack at November 26, 2005 4:05 PM

And all the highways in L.A. are still clogged with thousands of environazi protestors, holding signs that condemn China - just like they did in 1991 when Saddam lit up the oil fields, in the worst environmental disaster since cow flatuance was identified as. . .

Posted by: obc at November 27, 2005 12:16 AM