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April 16, 2013

China Reacts to Boston's Bombing

by VOA News

As news of the Boston Marathon bombing started spreading in China early Tuesday, the country's microblogs filled with messages of sympathy for the victims and updates from Chinese nationals present at the scene of the attack.

On Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying expressed Beijing's condolences and said that China strongly condemns any violent attack against civilians. She said that one Chinese student had been injured following the bombings and she was being treated at a local hospital.

Wang Shi, CEO of China's largest real estate developer Vanke, was at the finishing line of Boston's marathon, where he witnessed the blasts and uploaded pictures to his Chinese microblog account.

In a phone interview with CCTV news, China's state TV news channel, he said he heard the explosions from the VIP box where he was watching the race.

"There was a sudden blast from the right side of the finishing line," he told the CCTV reporter. "Then white smoke started spreading. At that moment, there was no fire yet nor people hurt that I could see."

Wang Shi was in Boston to accompany 15 of his employees who were taking part in the race.

Wang had been documenting the race from his Twitter-like Weibo account. Minutes before the explosion, he had posted a picture of the fifth member of the Vanke team to cross the end line, wrapped in a Chinese flag as a cloak.

​​The following pictures were of a very different kind: white smog engulfing the street and people ducking for cover.

Wang Shi was not the only Chinese at the marathon who provided live updates on the events.

Fang Sanwen, a former deputy editor in chief at the Chinese news portal Wangyi, also took part in the race. He responded to concerned messages on his Weibo account saying that he had stopped running at the 40th kilometer and he did not know yet what had happened. Later, he posted a message saying that other members of his team had crossed the finishing line only two minutes before the blast.

The attack in Boston was headline news for most Chinese news portals and messages of condolences came from many online users.

On her microblog account, marathon runner Shi Yanxiu condemned the violence and encouraged people to react after the initial shock and anger.

"We have to continue running!," she wrote, "From heaven, those who died probably want more people to take part in marathons and finish the journey they could not finish."

​Some comments online highlighted the intense Chinese media coverage of the tragedy and comparisons to state media coverage of similar domestic accidents.

"Chinese media are full of detailed and timely reports with pictures and texts on accidents that happen abroad," one Internet user from Fujian wrote on his microblog account on Tuesday. "But I did not see such an array of reports for the fire that happened in Hubei on the 14th causing 14 deaths and 47 people injured."

​Another Internet user from Beijing praised the U.S. response to the attack and said that the Chinese government could learn from how American officials handled the situation.

"If the Chinese government were to respond to a sudden accident like this, being open about its procedures and investigations, and without covering up, the Chinese public would trust its government just like the Americans do," she wrote.

​Figures from the Boston Athletic Association indicate 74 Chinese from the mainland and Hong Kong took part in the race, and another seven athletes from Taiwan.

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