Chinese Amateurs’ Successful Quake Predictions ‘Broke the Law’

April 23, 2013 Updated: April 23, 2013

An 18-year-old and fellow amateurs accurately forecast the April 20 earthquake in Sichuan Province and another one in Yunnan Province three days earlier, but a communist official said they were acting against the law.

Lin Long, a student and microblog owner, is part of an online team of about 50 amateur earthquake researchers who gather information online and use it to make predictions. Lin told the Beijing News that their group, called the Forecast Center, has made over 800 predictions so far, mostly for overseas quakes, with over 500 being accurate.

“I am protecting the people’s right to know, to let them know something out of the ordinary was found in the data. We do this to prevent property loss,” Lin told the news agency.

“We are really careful with information on big earthquakes, and we inform the rescue troops if that’s the case.”

However, a municipal decree states that earthquake predictions should only be announced by the authorities, chief forecaster Sun Shihong of China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) told Beijing News. Sun said that a false prediction from a private group could disrupt social order and stability.

“They should turn in their results and once the government experts confirm it, they will ask the government to issue an official announcement,” Sun added.

On April 14, three days before the Yunnan quake struck, the Forecast Center posted an online prediction that there would be an earthquake in that area within 72 hours. According to state mouthpiece Xinhua, the tremor destroyed nearly 500 houses, injured 14 people, and affected almost 130,000 in the area.

The group noticed oddities in data from the Yunnan Earthquake Precursory Data Center about a week before the disaster hit, according to the Beijing News.

On April 18, Lin’s team also accurately predicted the devastating 6.9-magnitude quake in Sichuan, which killed at least 207 people and injured almost 12,000, based on official data.

Netizens expressed their opinions on the matter via Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform.

“Why don’t we make it illegal if an earthquake took place and the Earthquake Administration did not forecast it?” one Internet user joked.

Another quipped: “The Forecast Center stole the Earthquake Administration’s job. Also, earthquake prediction in China is a state secret.”

A third was more serious, saying, “There are tens of thousands of pieces of inaccurate information like this. If everyone just predicts at will, how much inconvenience will it bring to our daily life; can you imagine?”