Respect lives and truths

Premier Wen Jiabao inspected the railway rear-end accident site and visited the victim families in Wenzhou city five days after the bloody tragedy killing 39. He calls for fair and reasonable compensations for the victims, transparent investigation into causes and harsh punishment of the people in charge in his press conference held under the accident overpass.

Displaying firm belief in solving all problems properly, Wen’s comforting presence, though a little bit late, proves to be effective to some extent in cooling down the sizzling heat of mounting public doubts and regaining government’s credit. But there is still a long way to go for the authority to calm the situation.

It takes time to find out the real cause leading to the rare accident. But it is not an excuse to blame the thunder only at first to exculpate human responsibilities when the public were eager to know the truth. With the uncollected performance of the spokesman, the first official press conference held by the Railway Ministry two days after the accident, instead of providing any convincing information, only made the situation even worse.

Dismissing two heads of Shanghai railway branch, hasty recovering of the railway service before verifying the true accident causes and insolent burying luggages and remains of the dead simply build up the public anger into fury. Speculations sprang up to fill the gap left by empty official information. Days later, when people are fed up by the technical terms of all kinds of speculations on accident causes, rumours started wildly circulating criticizing the clumsy rescue efforts.

 The Railway Ministry’s  stupid decision to bury the locomotive at first and then dig it out under public opinion pressure and the rescue of the last living girl from the deserted carriage which was claimed having no signs of life by the authority 24 hours after the accident provides plenty reasons for the public to question efficiency of the rescue work.

 The tear-jerking complainings of victim family members push the doubts and rumours to new height emotionally and fast without being positively affected by any valuable information released by the ministry meanwhile. Even Premier Wen Jiabao directly required the ministry to answer the society’s questions on rescue works when asked about the efficiency and organization of the rescue project in his press conference.

 We blame the Railway Ministry’s late response, perfunctory decision to resume the railway traffic and detest its pretentious conceit in technology. We are also anxiously waiting for the truth dug out from the complicated situation. People in charge must be harshly punished, victims properly compensated. But it does not mean we can tolerate any rumours overturning all the nation’s efforts into wastes.

 If it were not for Wen’s timely visit, the rumours fabricated by all parties, some with ulterior motives, and circulated by irresponsible media outlets will turn the whole situation hopeless. How to dealing with a dynamic and responsive public opinion during crisis at information age is a new subject for Chinese government. More importantly, seriously respecting safety of people’s lives is the prerequisite for the government’s new efforts to balance speed and quality of development.

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