Three minutes’ silence in Shanghai, May 19:
At 2:28pm, traffic came to a stop at the usually bustling corner of Jinling Lu and Xizang Lu. The crowd fell silent as car horns, and police, fire and air raid sirens sounded out across the city. I admit that as I stood there, I wondered whether drivers would drain their batteries by leaning on their horns for three minutes – but the overall effect was astonishing.
On the big screen, CCTV broadcast scenes from around the country, where similar crowds had gathered outside for the three minutes, interspersed with scenes from the earthquake zone.
It was hard not to be moved by the display. I had doubted that cars in Shanghai would actually heed the call to stop for three minutes, but aside from a few errant motor scooters, traffic was completely still.
Fuyang and the coming apocalypse, May 7:
If there’s going to be a deadly intestinal virus outbreak in central China, you can pretty much bet it’s going to happen in Fuyang. The Anhui city, near the border with Henan province, has something of a history of unwholesome happenings.
So, there were no surprises when a CER colleague sent me a link about the recent Enterovirus 71 (EV71) outbreak. EV71 is a cause of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) and is blamed for most of its deaths. As many as 3,300 of the estimated 15,000 cases of HFMD nationwide are in Fuyang. The virus has also caused 22 deaths in the city.
It doesn’t end there. Remember 2004’s fake milk powder scandal that killed 15 babies? That was also Fuyang.
And last month, the city government’s “white house” (do we mean Capitol building?) made news. At a glance, we’d guess some dubious sources of income may have been involved. A whistle-blower on the project mysteriously died in prison. The central government is investigating.
“Fuyang is the most luan place I know,” our Chinese teacher from Anhui told us. “The government, the people, the mafia … just go to the train station and you’ll know what I mean.”
We may take a rain check on that one.