Media snippets greeted with an air of indifference

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2005, 12:00am

The Pope's death was briefly announced by the mainland media a few hours after he passed away.

Xinhua released a short article one hour after his death which set the tone for other official media.

The report also mentioned that mainland Catholic associations had 'sent messages of concern when he was seriously ill'.

The semi-official China News Service's reports several hours later were more detailed., the mainland's biggest internet portal, ran a headline about the Pope's death in a prominent position, but it took the content from Xinhua and the China News Service., the online version of Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, posted information on its main news page. CCTV also reported the death on its evening news.

None of the main websites devoted forums to discuss the pontiff's death, and the hottest international topic on was the opposition to Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Media insiders defended the relative silence by saying mainland outlets did not usually report the deteriorating health of statesmen, domestic or foreign.

According to Chinese tradition, it is not appropriate to discuss someone's demise.

The insiders also noted that most newspapers were being printed at the time of the Pope's death.

'It was always going to be kept low key as relations between the Vatican and Beijing are strained,' one of the insiders said. 'It's obviously a politically sensitive topic, given he's a religious leader.'

A staff reporter at the China Youth Daily said: 'We'll publish the news in Monday's paper for sure, but most probably by using what Xinhua has put out.'

Many mainlanders showed indifference to the news.

Li Song , a Beijing-based engineer from a rural area of Zhejiang province , said he had kept a close eye on the Pope's health because several of his relatives were Catholics.

'But I bet none of them have actually ever heard of Pope John Paul,' the 27-year-old said.

Beijing accountant Wang Xiyu , 37, said: 'Asking me to shed a tear for a Catholic leader is as ridiculous as asking people in the west to mourn the passing of a Chinese Buddhist leader.I don't follow the religion and for me it's just the death of another famous figure.'