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China's Media Mute on Local School Tragedy

On Dec 14, 2012, 20 children were killed in a gun shooting in Connecticut, US. The sad news was immediately all over China’s CCTV and made the headlines of major newspapers in China.

On the same day, another school tragedy took place in central China: a man stabbed and injured 22 children.

However, the news was soon censored. There was not a single mention of the domestic tragedy in Chinese mainstream media. The only source to find out the news was through Weibo, China’s twitter.

A screen shot of the report on the school stabbing on Anhui TV from youku

A screen shot of the report on the school stabbing on Anhui TV from youku

CCTV and other major media’s two different attitudes to the news coverage drew netizens’ attention, which soon became the hottest topic on Weibo [zh]. While expressing their sympathy for the children, netizens compared the different approaches to the incidents in the US and China, and questioned the unfair censorship and ignorance of human rights in China. Some netizens tried to report the news themselves by posting pictures of injured children on Weibo.

Below are some comments from famous bloggers and commentators on Weibo [zh]:

大鹏看天下: 【你们不报道,我们自己来!】美国孩子出事,奥巴马垂泪,全美降半旗,中国中央电视台《新闻联播》发头条。中国孩子出事,当地教育局的干部在办公室开着暖气玩游戏,各大媒体全部噤声,无耻地沉默,仅在微博能看到一些零碎消息…这是目前可见的照片集合。

大鹏看天下: If you don’t report it, we’ll do it ourselves! Following the incident in the US, Obama wept and the whole nation put their flags at half-mast. The incident also made CCTV headlines. On the contrary, when the Chinese children were injured, the local education bureau were playing games in the office. All major media were silent, a shameless silence. You can only see bits and pieces of the news through Weibo…here’s a collection of photos of the injured children.


小蝴蝶碎碎念:Policies made to fool the people will work for how long? They often say that “People are Fundamental”. This is ridiculous!


韩志国:The massacre in the US was all over Chinese media, and made the headlines mostly; on the same day, the mainstream media turned a blind eye to the school incident in China, which is only available on Weibo. The mainstream media held two different attitudes, is it because the lives of Chinese children are worthless?

 假装在纽约: 不要怪央视一整天都在报美国校园枪击案却对河南的校园砍人事件漠不关心了。领导的孩子都在美国啊。

假装在纽约: Don’t blame CCTV for reporting about the American school shooting all day long, but not reporting about the school stabbing in Henan. All of the officials’ children are in the US!

慕容雪村: 中国和美国同时发生校园惨案,有关部门下达禁令,禁止报道自己家的丑事,于是各报纸,各电视开始大张旗鼓地报道美国惨案,他们做回顾,做总结,做分析,然后异口同声地大叫:看这万恶的资本主义!

慕容雪村: A school tragedy happened at the same time in both countries. The relevant departments banned reporting about the scandal of our own country, so all the newspapers and television stations covered the U.S. tragedy in detail. They reviewed, summarized, analysed, and then yelled in unison: Look at the evil capitalism!


李宪法-:Journalists say censorship is a standard government approach in dealing with disasters found at every level of government.


浪子布回头: The American massacre made the headlines of CCTV news; however, on the same day, the news didn’t mention the injured 22 students in China. Such disregard of ordinary lives should be criticized! They must apologize to us citizens!

Among the online rage towards Chinese government and media, there’s one different voice. Hu Xijin, chief editor of the government mouthpiece newspaper Global Times tried to divert netizens’ attention to the US by criticizing the American government [zh]:


胡锡进:The American primary school massacre resulted in 28 deaths. Not only are such shootings appalling, but the attitude of U.S. government was equally surprising. Isn’t it a human rights disaster? The U.S. school shooting incidents have caused a lot more deaths than [even] Chinese school bus accidents, but the U.S. government just stands by. I do not understand how American parents can tolerate this. Poor children.

Hu’s comment failed to resonate, and resulted in a great deal of criticism instead. One netizen responded [zh]:

段郎说事: 美国政府是否作为,由美国人民去判断和处置,胡操什么心?还是多操心家门内的孩子安全吧!

段郎说事: How the U.S. government deals with the issue will be judged by the American people. Why are you worrying so much? Perhaps you should worry more about the safety of the children here at home!


  • Louise H

    I am against censorship but I think the terrible incident above in China sounds like it could well be an attack mimicking the one in Connecticut. Often high profile reporting of such tragedies leads to more similar cases, and with this in light, I think the media needs to be very careful about how such attacks are reported. While such tragedies should of course be reported, there are some arguments for keeping them low profile.

    Copycat tragedies seem unbelievable but they’re covered in an interesting book by Cialdini, ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ – particularly chapter 4, about ‘social proof’ where he talks about the Werther Effect.


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