“Officials: Faulty signal led to deadly China train crash”

More fallout from the Wenzhou crash, via CNN:

The news comes as the Chinese government tightened its grip on coverage of the crash by major state-run news outlets amid a torrent of public anger and skepticism on social media over its handling of the incident.

Although it still dominated headlines across China’s cyberspace Tuesday night, the accident in eastern Zhejiang province had been relegated to story No. 5 in the main newscast of national broadcaster China Central Television, and what was left of its coverage focused on the heroism of rescuers.

While CCTV shunned him, Yang became an overnight hero in the eyes of Chinese netizens who were riled by the government response to the accident, especially the perceived ineptitude and arrogance of the railway ministry. Less than 24 hours after he posted his first message on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, Yang has gained more than 110,000 followers.

“The closer you get to the centrally controlled media, the more they toe the Communist Party line,” explained Jeremy Goldkorn, a long-time Chinese media observer whose Danwei website monitors the industry. “For this accident, Weibo posts have been so far ahead of official responses.”

Chinese netizens have been fuming over the government decision to crush and bury one of the six derailed train cars when the investigation had barely started, alleging an attempted cover-up or worse. In an apparent nod to the growing online opposition, crews excavated the buried car Tuesday night and transported it to a depot for re-examination.

For Weibo users, however, any sense of vindication may prove short-lived. Analysts say Internet censors have already begun deleting more posts as netizens became critical of not just the scandal-plagued railway ministry but also of the flaws of the political system.

“They are trying to shove the genie back in the bottle,” media observer Goldkorn said. “Weibo is such an effective amplifier of people’s dissatisfaction that it is worrying the government a lot.”

It seems less and less likely that the government will ignore Weibo now.

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Filed under China, disasters, internet

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