Jeremy Goldkorn

China’s successful microblogging service Weibo ignored the party line, as the online anger about the railway crash near Wenzhou exploded. Internet watcher Jeremy Goldkorn explains in CNN the government is trying to put the ghost back into the bottle. Yang Feng, who lost family in the crash, became an overnight hero.


While [the official broadcaster] CCTV shunned him, Yang became an overnight hero in the eyes of Chinese netizens who were riled by the government response to the accident, especially the perceived ineptitude and arrogance of the railway ministry. Less than 24 hours after he posted his first message on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, Yang has gained more than 110,000 followers.

“The closer you get to the centrally controlled media, the more they toe the Communist Party line,” explained Jeremy Goldkorn, a long-time Chinese media observer whose Danwei website monitors the industry. “For this accident, Weibo posts have been so far ahead of official responses.”…

For Weibo users, however, any sense of vindication may prove short-lived. Analysts say Internet censors have already begun deleting more posts as netizens became critical of not just the scandal-plagued railway ministry but also of the flaws of the political system.

“They are trying to shove the genie back in the bottle,” media observer Goldkorn said. “Weibo is such an effective amplifier of people’s dissatisfaction that it is worrying the government a lot.”

Now Yang has turned uncharacteristically quiet. Pleading for his supporters’ understanding, he alluded in his most recent Weibo posts that he was under tremendous pressure to keep a low profile for the well-being of his family — including his father-in-law, who survived the train crash.

More in the aftermath of the railway crash at CNN.

Jeremy Goldkorn is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch.

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