Chinese Regime Quell Rumors Before Earthquake

May 12, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: May 12, 2008 12:00 am

On the afternoon of May 12, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southwest China, in Wenchuan country, a poor mountainous region in Sichuan province. But just four days ago, the local regime had issued a notice to quell the “earthquake rumors”.

According to incomplete statistics up to early morning May 13, the devastating strike killed nearly 10,000 people in the local area, and at least 180 people in the neighboring Gansu, Shaanxi province. The quake's power was even felt in Beijing, Shanghai, and Bangkok—which are located several thousands kilometers away from the center.

Actually, more than ten days ago, some Sichuan residents had called up their local Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau (EPDRSB) to verify “rumors” about earthquake in near future.

But the bureau denied the possibility and even published a notice on the regime's provincial website on May 9 (see the translated notice at the end of the article). After the quake, the notice was deleted.

Besides the above, some mainland Internet surfers also disclosed that the communist regime may have deliberately concealed the information about the earthquake to maintain social stability.

One Internet user claimed they have a relative working in the Provincial Seismological Bureau, and said, “Even when there was already a sign indicating an earthquake, the Seismological Bureau of Sichuan still suppressed and failed to report the information, completely disregarding people's lives. My uncle called me some time ago and painfully told me that—knowing the earthquake warning signs—but the Bureau disallowed them to release the information and stressed to ensure stability before the Olympics, and not create panic among the public.”

Additionally, news also spread on mainland Internet sites that as early as May 7, a geological worker had posted a message on the BBS and predicted a major earthquake near Wuhan city and Sichuan province. The worker also provided charts indicating the predicted time and location of the earthquake.

Following is the translation of part of the message

“I predict China will have an earthquake on May 12, 2008!

I am a geological worker, according to information in my hand and the exchange that I have with some foreign colleagues, I predict China will have earthquake on May 12, 2008, the approximate location will be in the middle of Sichuan and Hubei, the entire China may feel the shake. But my prediction cannot be announced publicly because there is no real proof and may cause panic. I am from Wuhan (City), according to my prediction, the earthquake should not be far from Wuhan (City). I hope my Wuhang fellow people could tell family and friends in time to be prepared.”

But, the regime appears to be avoiding any responsibility of disaster prevention in the future. Just following the earthquake in Sichuan, China's Central TV station (CCTV) reported in the evening news on May 12 that the Ministry of Public Security issued an urgent notice.

The notice warned of a heavy strike against those who took the opportunity to spread rumors and stir up unrest. Mr. Gu Yongxin, the deputy director of the Bureau of Seismology claimed that Beijing would not have any quake in the near future, and that it was sheer rumor that Beijing may have an earthquake.

Snapshot of the notice.
Snapshot of the notice.

The complete text of Sichuan Province People's Government Networks report on May 9:

The Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Ahazhou has Successfully Subsided the Erroneously Scattered Rumors

At 8 pm on May 3, the Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Ahazhou received calls to inquire whether “Suomo Town, Maerkong County was going to have a major earthquake that village officials advised villagers to stay outdoors” was true. After receiving the calls, the Bureau immediately asked the Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Maerkong County to investigate the source of the rumor, to dispel it, to widely explain, and to prevent the rumor from further expanding. Upon receiving the notification, the Bureau of Maerkong immediately contacted Suomo Town People's government and notified the related situation. The County government investigated the source speedily and found that in a televised phone conversation of Maerkong County regarding the transmission of provincial geology disaster prevention and control, the village officials mistakenly took the 'geological disaster' as 'earthquake disaster.'

With the clarification by the Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Ahazhou and officials of the county and the village, it relieved the villagers' panic.