(HLN) — Reports coming from Beijing claim China is bracing for a mass social unrest following last week’s fiery apartment building collapse in the city of Changsha in Hunan province.
In the days since the collapse, local media have been detailing horrific scenes, and the high numbers of the dead. At least 85 people died in the wall collapse, a disaster that spawned hundreds of “mass incidents” or “mass incidents,” that day — and dozens more are thought to have been sparked by the tragedy.
Speaking to the BBC, Journalist Paul Keyes, who has reported on Chinese civil protests for years, said the government was bracing for even more to happen in the coming weeks, during Lunar New Year celebrations.
“When something like this happens, a number of areas are affected. Areas nearby, households, villages, townships, including public services,” Keyes told the BBC.
He said people were very reluctant to speak about what was happening, “because they didn’t want to be associated with the Evergrande disaster, or with another kind of disaster.”
Beijing is in the midst of a twice-a-decade political transition, which culminates in a Communist Party congress. Exhibits of documents and papers have leaked in recent weeks, detailing efforts to preserve the power structure, and to limit the influence of the opposition.
Chinese police have moved quickly to stop efforts to reproduce the fallen building parts — but local businesses have taken to the Internet to display them in photos. Earlier this week, pro-government activist Ning Li pleaded with residents to stop “posting, circulating and printing pictures of the parts of the wall.”
The government now sees residents posting on the social media network Weibo — which some consider a platform for citizen activism — as a threat. On January 31, the Ministry of Public Security began publishing statistics that weaved personal information of Weibo users and their Weibo pages into “illegal state publication”; users were slapped with fines and “destruction of their private information.”
Earlier this week, News.com.au reported that 50,000 photographs relating to the February 4 disaster were posted on Weibo in 24 hours.
News.com.au also reported that China’s mobile social messaging app WeChat, said to be popular with Chinese citizens and foreign visitors alike, was witnessing a huge uptick in traffic on the day of the accident. Many apparently “bashed” the system as a “no go” space for Chinese citizens to discuss the disaster, until co-founder Robin Li announced that the team was “more than happy to keep an open discussion” during the Chinese New Year.