Boston Blasts Prompt Huge Response in China

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Runner John Ounao weeps as he finds friends after several explosions rocked the finish of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, April 15, 2013.
Runner John Ounao weeps as he finds friends after several explosions rocked the finish of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, April 15, 2013.

The rapid sharing of social media from the Boston Marathon bombings by Chinese eyewitnesses sparked a huge online response on Tuesday, after three people died and more than 170 were injured in the blasts near the finish line of the world-class athletic event.

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the blasts a day earlier were an "act of terror," while officials appealed to the public to hand over any photos or video of the event.

Property tycoon Wang Shi, who was there to support a team from his company, China Vanke, uploaded video and photos of the immediate aftermath of the bombing to his account on the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo, sparking thousands of retweets and comments.

"Two loud bangs go off near the finish line," Wang tweeted to his verified account, adding video of fire engines, distraught people, clouds of smoke and police. "The race is stopped and everyone is leaving."

"The explosions weren't very large. I suspect it was a terrorist attack," he wrote in a post that was retweeted thousands of times and garnered at least 900 comments.

He added in a later tweet: "The emergency services are incredibly fast in the U.S ... All of the Vanke team ... are safe. We mourn the victims."

'As loud as gunfire'

A Chinese national surnamed Xu said she was also at the scene.

"I suddenly heard one explosion, and then there were two, with perhaps 15 or 20 seconds between them," she told RFA's Mandarin service.

"The sounds were about as loud as gunfire during a formal military salute," Xu said.

"A crowd of police came running over, and, as I was leaving the area, I saw a woman sitting down ... and there was blood all around on the ground."

An eight-year-old boy was among the dead, while local media reported that a nine-year-old girl, a seven-year-old boy, a 12-year-old, and another child aged two were among the injured in a local hospital.

"Buddha help us! Against violence and terrorism," wrote @huifeideyuyouxinfu. "There are causes and effects, but ordinary people shouldn't have to pay the price."

Sympathy for the victims

As police and FBI investigators were combing the scene of the bombing on Tuesday for clues, as well as searching a building in the Boston suburb of Revere, many Chinese microbloggers were posting candle and praying hands emoticons in sympathy for the victims of the attack.

"Why is it always regular folk [who get hurt]?" asked user @zuihaiyang, while @niangao12 added: "People who wreak revenge and create victims of disaster are the abnormal fetuses of humanity."

The blasts came as an estimated 500,000 people gathered on Patriots' Day, which marks the beginning of the U.S. war of independence, to watch nearly 27,000 runners take part in the World Marathon Major event, which is more than a century old.

Wang's on-the-spot tweets led some to call on China to learn a lesson from the freedom of information and social cooperation in the U.S.

"Three hours after the Boston explosions, all websites and TV stations were doing live, rolling coverage, with no propaganda restrictions,"
read one tweet on the account of business executive Hu Xiangkun.

"The police held a press conference immediately. Reactions were fast and information was transparent."

'Something worth learning'

"In the face of an overwhelming public incident, the government, the media, businesses, and citizens all helped each other in good faith. There is something in this worth learning for us," Hu wrote.

Meanwhile, Lifeweek magazine editor-in-chief Zhu Wei wrote: "It is becoming more and more imperative that we think about our model of covering the news."

"Wang Shi is now an international correspondent," wrote Sina user @xinwenchuifenghui. "He did a very professional job. It's always the people on the scene that are the best journalists."

"Don't they control the Internet over there?" wrote Sina Weibo user @dayantuntun, while user @yuVge added: "Whether it's good or bad news, they report it all the same. That should convince you guys."

Reported by Zi Jing for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Pan Jiaqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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