Project 211

Low-key gatherings to remember the dead

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2012, 12:00am


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A small group of mourners visited the site of the fatal Wenzhou high-speed-train crash yesterday - the first anniversary of the tragedy - but no official commemorations were held.

There has also been no special media coverage on the mainland to mark the anniversary of the collision, which left 40 dead and nearly 200 injured, after authorities implemented a gag order. Even the families of victims say they want to get on with their lives rather than reopen old wounds.

However, seven students from Zhejiang University's Ningbo Institute of Technology arrived at the site of the accident yesterday morning.

Congcong, a 21-year-old student from the institute's biopharmaceutical department, said they had come to mourn and to make a video featuring villagers and workers who lived near the accident site.

'These people were the first batch of rescuers and we want to interview them,' he said, adding that the video would be used to promote the spirit of helping others at the institute, which had approved their trip.

A man and a woman who said they were mainland journalists from outside Wenzhou laid flowers at the scene yesterday afternoon.

'Please don't expose us publicly, otherwise our employer will give us trouble,' the woman said. 'We have received an order banning coverage [of the anniversary] and we feel very angry, but helpless.'

Three students from the Communication University of China, in Beijing, came to mourn the dead, including two alumni.

'We came from Beijing to show our grief for our alumni, who were younger than us,' said a female student, who was not willing to give her name. She said they had raised 40,000 yuan (HK$49,200) on the campus last year and sent the money to the students' families.

On Sunday night, 10 Wenzhou residents, including one junior official, several employees of state-owned enterprises and white-collar workers, went to mourn the victims.

Wearing white T-shirts bearing the words 'we are not onlookers, but passengers', they lit red candles and sang a song they had written - A train heading to paradise.

Terry Xie, an interior designer and convert to Buddhism, said they had originally planned to unfurl a Buddhist prayer flag but stopped after seeing plainclothes policemen filming them from unmarked cars.

'We feel outraged,' he said. 'We are not doing anything illegal. We are not here to overturn their regime, but only to mourn the victims and comfort those poor souls.'

Xie said when they left the site, after staying there for 40 minutes, one plainclothes police officer photographed his car numberplate and refused to say why he was doing so.

At the site of the tragedy, a small square under the bridge where a southbound bullet train slammed into the back of another high-speed train on July 23 last year has been turned into a place for locals to practise driving. Today cars bearing the name of the Zhejiang Fuxing Vehicle Training School shuttle carefully around a track, dodging obstacles.

The official death toll was 40, but local people, alleging a cover-up, say more than 100 could have died.