Monday, May 19, 2008

Three days of national mourning

While China's national mourning became official today, the death toll, as reported by Xinhua, climbed to 36,477.

The day began with the ceremonial raising of the flag at Tiananmen Square, followed by a very historic lowering to half-mast, which I believe is the first time they've done this for a civilian matter. So much for the blog Zhongnanhai's earlier question. At 2:28 p.m., people were asked to observe three minutes of silence while air sirens, ship and vehicle horns blared. Not sure the symbolism behind the noise, but I was next to Tiananmen Square when this happened, surrounded by honking cars, and I can't remember another time when chills ran up and down my spine for so long.

The first video shows the calm before the storm, and in the second the mayhem starts. Apologies for the poor quality, but hopefully this gives you an idea of the scene.

UPDATE, 9:53 p.m.: TPJ has TV-quality video of 2:28-2:31, and Paul of Zhongnanhai offers some very poignant words. I have nothing to add.

On the other hand, to the commenter Jay: why do you ask the Chinese to mourn a certain way, i.e. the Western way? It's an ethnocentrist idea at best. You criticize the people for chanting "Go China" as if they were doing so because the government told them to. You complain about foreign satellite movie channels getting taken off the air -- by the way, boohoo -- only because you've been spoiled by the U.S. way of things. Your comment is -- pardon the analogy -- like if someone said after 9/11, "Why are they playing sports less than a week after? Why is President Bush insisting everyone go on a shopping spree?" The answer's simple: because that's how that country wants to heal. Quit meddling.

UPDATE 2, 12:40 a.m.: Is Jay a troller? He made a similar "Why does China have to make everything nationalistic" comment on a blog entry over at The Opposite End of China and got shouted down by a few angry voices.

Also, one more link to share: Tim Johnson of McClatchy Newspapers made it down to Beichuan recently, and the dispatch he filed is worth reading.

Here are some pictures from the afternoon and later in the evening, when life in Beijing returned to normal.

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