The earthquake occurred at a very shallow depth, which accounts for the heavy damage, as well as people fleeing from swaying buildings in distant cities like Taipei, Shanghai, and Bangkok. To give some context for this scale: Chengdu’s distance from Shanghai is roughly similar to the distance of New York from Florida, Winnipeg from Quebec, Belfast from Rome.
Most of the damage and deaths appear to be located in Wenchuan county. Wenchung county is in the southern part of Aba (also known as Ngawa) prefecture. Wenchuan county has a population that is 46% Han, 34% Qiang, and 18% Tibetan. For Aba prefecture as a whole, 54% of the population is Tibetan, and 25% are Han. There were significant violent riots in Aba prefecture in March.
Premier Wen Jiabao is already on the ground in Sichuan province, and will direct the rescue operation personally. Road access has reportedly been cut off to the mountainous areas where the epicenter of the quake is; we won’t know full story for days.
UPDATE: Death count has crossed the 8000 boundary, and likely to climb higher. For those able to help, instructions for making donations to the Chinese Red Cross are listed below.
To Buxi and CLC:
Thanks for your replies. WRT Tibetan independence, some Tibetans seek it, presumably as they see it to be to their benefit. PRC opposes it, as they see it as a detriment. I would like to explore the second part. I’ve read the historical justifications for Tibet being within China, such as the territorial relationship dating back hundreds of years at least. There’s also the point that the PLA moved in to liberate Tibetan serfs and slaves. In moving forward, the principle of “One China” drives policy. My questions are the following:
1. If a majority of the residents of present day Tibet do not want to remain in China (I realize that is a major assumption, and the act of accurately determining that ie a referendum is not a realistic option for the CCP circa 2008), how does it benefit China to keep this territory in the fold? It’s like keeping a bad apple employee within a company: wouldn’t company performance, and the morale of remaining employees, improve by removing said bad apple, such that all who remain truly want to be there, and are willing to wholeheartedly contribute to the “business” of improving China?
2. “One China” is a euphemism I don’t understand. There was, is, and ever will be only one China. The question is what geographical parts you include. Does a region that at one time was considered part of China, need to forever remain so, for the present and future benefit of the whole?
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The next little step might be the “Government Release of Information” regulation (中华人民共和国政府信息公开条例) issued by the State Council in January of 2007. This regulation went into effect on May 1st of this year, 2008. The regulation requires administrative government offices go through a formal process in terms of processing, analyzing, and finally releasing various types of information (including budgets, planning decisions, details on government expenditures, etc) to the public.
This article from the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly gives us some idea of how this regulation might change the way Chinese government offices does business.