Beijing Calls For Cooperation With US After Boston Attack

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A Boston University graduate student places items at a makeshift memorial for fellow student Lu Lingzi in Boston, April 17, 2013.
A Boston University graduate student places items at a makeshift memorial for fellow student Lu Lingzi in Boston, April 17, 2013.

China's state media called on Wednesday for closer cooperation with the United States in the war on terror as a graduate student from Shenyang was named among those killed in Monday's Boston Marathon bombing.

Comprehensive reporting on the incident by state media has also prompted Chinese journalists to demand similar blanket coverage of issues at home.

Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi was killed on Monday along with Martin Richard, 8, and Krystle Campbell, 29, her father and Chinese state media confirmed, sparking thousands of condolence messages on the microblogging site Sina Weibo.

While the bombings had already sparked a wave of online condolences, prominent commentators also linked the suspected terrorist attacks to U.S. participation in overseas conflicts.

"The deep sense of shock, anger, frustration and a desire for justice are felt not only in the United States," the official news agency Xinhua said in a signed commentary on Wednesday.

"Any country, whose flag is flying at the scene of the blast, would share American people's grief and resolve to never let the tragedy happen again," said the agency, which reflects the official agenda of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"In an age of globalization, no country can be immune from terrorist threats," the article, signed Wu Xia, said.

The article called for increased co-operation between China and the United States, which it said were "both victims" of the latest attack.

"As two major powers, the pair can jointly play a constructive role in promoting global counter-terrorism cooperation," it said.


The article comes after prominent left-wing thinkers hit out at the "outpouring of grief" among liberal intellectuals on China's hugely popular microblogging service Sina Weibo.

Wu Danhong, an assistant professor at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, wrote on his verified account: "These public intellectuals choose to ignore the fact that, at the beginning of April, U.S. troops in Afghanistan killed 17 civilians, including 12 children, during an attack on the Taliban."

"And on the evening of April 14 in Pakistan, a U.S. drone caused the death of four people," Wu wrote.

State Development and Reform Commission researcher Yang Yu, who is also a regular commentator on state broadcaster CCTV, said the world should now watch to see which target Washington selects for retaliation.

"This time, we don't know if and who they will attack," CCTV commentator and National Development and Reform Commission researcher Yang Yu wrote in comments translated by the South China Morning Post website, adding that the death of Osama bin Laden and two wars had done little to stave off terrorism.

The Xinhua commentary called on the international community, in an increasingly connected world, to work together "to build a harmonious world free from terror and fear."

On China's Internet, "harmonious" has become a byword for government censorship and top-down control measures to "maintain stability," however.

Beijing's "stability maintenance" budget has topped that of China's military for the past two years in a row.

Chinese authorities blame Uyghur separatists in its northwestern region of Xinjiang for a series of deadly attacks in recent years and accuse one group in particular of maintaining links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

But experts outside China have questioned the legitimacy of the claims, saying China has exaggerated the threat from Uyghur “separatists” and used its own “war on terror” to take the focus away from domestic policies that cause the unrest in the first place.

Last December, China sentenced three Uyghur men to death and another to life in prison after finding them guilty of attempting to hijack an aircraft in June, although exile groups questioned the fairness of their trial.

Freedom of expression

A resident of Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, which saw deadly ethnic clashes between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in 2009, said state television had adopted a very strident, anti-terrorism tone over the Boston attacks.

"There is non-stop coverage," said the resident, who gave only his surname, Zhong. "They report everything that happens in America ... but when it comes to reporting from China, like when [former president] Hu Jintao was asked some tough questions overseas, they dare not cover it at all."

"We really need some freedom of expression in our news media," he said.

An editor at a Communist Party newspaper in the central province of Hunan surnamed Xiao agreed.

"As soon as the slightest thing happens in America, they go a bit over the top," he said. "When in comes to China, there are some things ... that you can't report."

He said the Party's powerful central propaganda department kept editors informed on a daily basis of just what was permissible.

"Of course it's on orders from the top," Xiao said. "It's the propaganda department, which issues directives when an event occurs."

"They tell people to stick to the line put out by Xinhua news agency."

He said there had been no bans on reporting the Boston bombings, however. "I don't think there were any guidelines for this U.S. story," Xiao said.

He said the aim was to make people feel that U.S. society was inherently unstable, in spite of being more democratic.

"But if we had press freedom in China, it would quickly turn into a living hell. Censorship means that a lot of things simply 'didn't happen.'"

As one blogger put it on Tuesday: "CCTV has gone crazy, it seems, over the Boston bombings, with constant updates not missing a single detail," wrote the user, identified as @yujingzhongguo.

"I would like to say to CCTV: can't you channel all this zeal into reporting issues at home, such as bird flu, poisoned foodstuffs, the sexual exploits of corrupt officials, bloodshed around forced evictions and environmental protection?"

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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