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Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu / BEIJING, July 31, 2011.
As the camera turned to Qiu Qiming, the well-known host of a nightly news show on China's official State-run broadcaster, he did something he had never done before. Instead of announcing the day's headlines, Mr. Qiu launched into a passionate plea.
“Can we live in apartments that do not fall down?” asked the anchor, a familiar face to millions on the daily broadcasts of the official China Central Television's (CCTV).
“Can the roads we drive on in our cities not collapse?” he went on.
“Can we travel in safe trains? And if there is a major accident, can we not be in a hurry to bury the trains? Can we afford the people a basic sense of security? China, please slow down. If you are too fast, you may leave the souls of your people behind!”
The CCTV anchor's words reflected the anger voiced by many middle-class Chinese in the past week, following the July 23 collision between high-speed bullet trains that left at least 40 people dead and more than 190 injured.
In the wake of the accident, Chinese journalists, intellectuals and thousands of citizens have criticised the government's handling of the accident, as well as voiced anger at a recent string of public safety and corruption scandals.
Much of the anger has appeared on the vibrant Chinese Internet, on widely popular Twitter-like microblogs such as Sina Weibo, which is used by more than a hundred million people, most of whom young and from the country's fast-growing middle class.
“The information elite is angry with this incident because they are demanding transparency and timely information,” said Shi Anbin, professor of media studies at Tsinghua University.
“I would say this anger is being fuelled by Weibo and that is unprecedented,” he told The Hindu, adding that online microblogs were “amplifying information that the government does not announce or make public”.
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