Rumors surrounding a schoolboy's death test government’s ability in crisis management

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/6 15:23:39

Local rumors test governments’ ability in handling crisis


An incident in which the death of a middle-school student in Luxian county, Southwest China's Sichuan Province sparked protests and widespread rumors last week shows some local governments' lack of ability in managing crises, experts warned Thursday.

Local governments should act promptly and come up with convincing evidence to quell rumors and gain public trust, experts said, adding that widespread online rumors could only accentuate public doubt and discontent with local governments.  

Chinese social media erupted after a video showing the dead body of a 14-year-old student, surnamed Zhao from Taifu Middle School, lying on the ground went viral, with many speculating that the student was the victim of campus violence and had been beaten to death by a gang of bullies seeking protection money.

On their Sina Weibo account Luzhou police, who administer the county's public security, announced Wednesday that they are still investigating Zhao's death and that an autopsy will be conducted as soon as possible. According to local media, Zhao's next of kin has agreed to an autopsy. 

A local resident confirmed on Thursday to the Global Times that Luxian residents took to the streets to protest the way the Taifu Middle School and the local authorities handled the student's death. "This small incident has spiraled into a local protest, which highlights the distrust between local officials and the public," Chen Xinxin, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the Global Times Thursday.

"The professionalism of local governments lies in their ability to know what information they should make public before they gather the full evidence, and what they should explain to the public before rumors go rampant," Chen said. 

The local police have denied that violence played a role in the demise of the student, claiming on Monday that allegations Zhao's hands and feet were broken in an attack were "mere rumors." Local police have arrested four netizens for allegedly spreading "false information" about the case amid rampant speculation surrounding the tragedy.

Many local government officials feel "dishonored" if something bad happens within their jurisdiction, so tend to cover up the incident, which brings more disputes, said Yu Guoming, a professor at Beijing Normal University's School of Journalism and Communication.

Yu suggested the government to build active coping mechanisms to address rumors as the latter play a big role in society nowadays. Rumors may take the upper hand if the government fails to publish convincing investigative results in time, warned Yu.

Students from Taifu Middle School were supposed to return to school on Monday after the three-day Qingming Festival. However, they were told to come back on Friday because the school has still to deal with Zhao's case, the West China Metropolis Daily reported Thursday.


Newspaper headline: Autopsy for school death boy


Posted in: SOCIETY

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