Protests in China have been rife after blasts in Tianjin, a northern area of China, rocked the city one week ago.
While the official Government line and the state sponsored media, the People’s Daily, reject that the leading party’s crackdown on corruption would go tainted over a safety incident, scores are protesting.
With many still displaced, they are demanding compensation and with many still missing, they are demanding answers.
The Missing Young and Inexperienced
Many of the firefighters missing were young people including 19-year-old Liu Zhiqiang. The youngest is apparently 17 years old.
Considering the involvement of explosives, emotional family members have deplored the fact that such young and potentially inexperienced firefighters were sent on the frontline. It has also been reprehensible how these young firefighters were sent without being adequately trained, which made the situation worse.
The teenage servicemen were typically contractors “not in the system” that made up the bottom tier of a three-tier fire service. They had not been trained to use foam and sand, the appropriate materials to use on a chemical fire and were not even told that it was caused by chemicals. They therefore, made the lethal act of fighting the flames with water, causing the subsequent fireballs.
There are still 64 firefighters missing and extensive search missions have been carried out around the blast sites. Even these rescue missions carry with it grave risks as the containers full of toxic and burning chemicals could fall at any moment.
China’s Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, acknowledged that an answer was owed to victims’ families and residents of Tianjin, even the people of China; but one has not been forthcoming as yet.
The country’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate are certainly looking for that answer as they announced they would be investigating the misconduct and possible criminal activity in relation to the handling of chemicals at the warehouse. Such acts were mentioned to be “abuse of power or dereliction of duty”.
Some Media outlets, however, haven’t been running the mouthpiece for Government as some others have. The Global Times criticized the slow response of the Government and commented that it is often the case with disaster response work as is the lack of transparency.
One area of opaqueness is the number of missing. The Government have declared that 70 are still missing and a Chinese activist is compiling a database that has so far enlisted 132 names, many of which she says are migrant workers, whose disappearance may go unnoticed.
The handling of any investigation or disaster is typically done in secrecy in China.
Many have recalled the same way in which the Government failed to disclose information and shut out the media after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.
Declaring numbers or lists of people missing or dead is one such piece of information that is shared with reluctance. In both cases, nothing was published until others started compiling their own lists, almost placing them under duress to do the same.
Protestors that are demanding compensation for their destroyed homes are claiming that they were unaware that dangerous chemicals were being stored in the nearby warehouse and that it is a violation of official guidelines.
Regulations state it should be 1,000 meters or further from any major transport hubs and buildings.
The protests are thought to have exposed the mistrust that exists for the Government and speculation has been rife on the link between the company that owned the warehouse, Ruihai International Logistics, and key Government officials.
It could be that this speculation is found true as an admission of guilt was included in an interview, with Xinhua news agency, where two of the main shareholders of the company said they used their connections with local officials to obtain the necessary certifications and pass them through inspections, hiding their involvement in the company.
By Sophia Akram