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China: CCTV under fire

Categories: East Asia, China, Breaking News, Freedom of Speech, Media & Journalism

On the night of February 9, part of China Central Television (CCTV) Tower caught fire when a squad was shooting fireworks to celebrate the Lantern Festival. The fire has reportedly killed one fireman, injured seven other people, and destroyed billions of yuan in broadcast facilities.

Speculators have widely noticed the Chinese netizens’ online comments of the CCTV fire. But in fact, just as the authorities started to filter the relevant information in Chinese cyberspace, alternative communication means have been employed to air the grassroots views.

On February 10, I received a SMS message from one of my close friends, consisting of a traditional Chinese couplet [1] available online at the moment:


First line: The Spring Festival Gala made Xiao Shenyang a celebrity
Second line: The Lantern Festival fireworks set the boot-shaped building on fire
Horizontal line: CCTV never short of money

The message ends with such a conclusion [2]:


Never be too CCTV as a human being. Otherwise, you are doomed to be punished even if you are lucky enough to survive the Chinese New Year.

On February 12, I received an email from Mr. Yue (岳先生), aggregating a myriad of grassroots comments and snapshots on the fire. One of its captions reads:


CCTV is so rich to set its building on fire to celebrate the Lantern Festival while others can only afford firecrackers.

Another netizen is quoted as commenting on CCTV’s misdoing:


The Chinese mainstream media has always been instructing us to be honest and abide by laws, but now it is you that blatantly violated our law. We feel so gloomy now!

Out of my expectation, one commentator feels optimistic about the consequence of the fire:


Deconstruction and reconstruction of the CCTV building will certainly stimulate our domestic demands and boost our GDP growth at the right time. Meanwhile, it creates temporary jobs for so many migrant workers. The suspects are entitled to a great reward.

One person is dissatisfied with CCTV’s professional performance:

CCTV 报道美国911大火是第一时间且连续滚动报道,而对自家的大火却只在十几小时后哼了一下。这是什么精神?这是无私忘我的精神!

CCTV’s reports of USA’s 911 fire were timely and continuous, but CCTV’s report about its own fire is so short and subtle. What spirit is this? It is the glorious spirit of “unselfish enough to forget itself”!

To draw a lesson from the fire, someone recommends politically:


Please take Democracy-branded pills when the mouthpiece suffers from inflammation!

But I am afraid the Chinese people’s irony will be misintertpreted as gloat, merciless or inhuman. As a matter of fact, the aforementioned satire illustrated the grassroots concerns over the incident, their sympathy with the dead and injured, their anger with CCTV, and their love of the country.