Netizens Link Earthquake in China to Divine Retribution

January 24, 2013 Updated: January 29, 2013
A frightened young man in Shenyang ran from the 21st floor of his residential building to the ground in a single minute, with a blanket wrapped around him, during the earthquake. (

An earthquake that struck close to the site of a known concentration camp in China was seen by netizens as having possible divine portent—given the ancient Chinese belief that misdeeds by rulers are punished by heaven.

The 5.1- magnitude quake hit the border region of Liaoyang City and Shenyang City in northeast China’s Liaoning Province at 12:18 p.m. on Jan. 23, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.

The epicenter had a focal depth of seven kilometers and was located near the Sujiatun District of Shenyang, capital of the province, and county-level city Dengta of Liaoyang. The quake lasted about 30 seconds, and was felt not only in the areas of Liaoning, but also its neighboring Jilin Province’s Siping, Liaoyuan, and Changchun.

No casualties or severe damage were immediately reported, though the external walls on some old houses were cracked or split, and at least eight chimneys collapsed, according to Beijing Times.

One frightened young man in Shenyang, with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, was reported to have run from the 21st floor of his residential building to the ground in a single minute.

Shenyang residents said that buildings continued to tremble after the earthquake, making them especially anxious about aftershocks. Many companies evacuated their workers because of safety concerns.

Communications were disrupted in Dengta, where houses in the hardest-hit areas were visibly cracked. This is the second earthquake in that city in the past year.

Some commentators online linked this earthquake, and other earthquakes and natural disasters in China, with the Chinese belief in “heaven’s will.” One Hunan netizen remarked: “There have been so many earthquakes these days … Jiangsu, Liaoning, and Shandong … .”

In Chinese history the end of a corrupt dynasty has often been marked by unusual or catastrophic weather or natural disasters. Xinhua, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, in 2008 devoted a long article to attacking and dismissing the idea.

The Chinese scholar Zhu Xueqin wrote in the liberal Southern Metropolis Daily that the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan in May 2008, in which tens of thousands died, must have been “divine punishment.”

He wrote: “Isn’t this punishment by heaven? But that doesn’t mean that those who died committed sin. If it weren’t divine punishment, why did the earthquake happen on the birthday of the Buddha?”

A crack in the ceiling of the house was spotted after the quake. (

Xinhua, in attempting to dismiss the concept, described the view of ancient Chinese people: “Every time there was a natural disaster in society, people took it as a matter of course that it was due to shortcomings in government policy. It was even to the extent that every time there was an earthquake or natural disaster, the emperor would write a ‘declaration of fault.'”

Some Chinese continue to make the same associations between a corrupt polity and natural disasters. A netizen from Jiangsu wrote: “Everyone says: ‘Google Sujiatun and you will know why they were hit by this earthquake!’ What goes around comes around.”

The reference was almost certainly to the reports of a concentration camp that held Falun Gong practitioners, and used them as a live organ bank.

Reports emerged in 2006 that thousands of Falun Gong practitioners were housed in a Sujiatun hospital and labor camp—the allegations said that they were being harvested for their organs while still alive, with their bodies then being cremated after the organs were removed and sold.

The U.S. State Department sent staff to the site, but could not corroborate that specific claim. However, further investigation by independent researchers found that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been killed for their organs—an activity that may still be continuing in China.

Later, experts concluded that the time lag—about three weeks—from when the reports about the Sujiatun death camp emerged and when State Department personnel arrived was enough for Chinese officials to have thoroughly cleaned up.

Read the original Chinese article.

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