A tale of two cities, two criticisms, and two very different responses

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2008, 12:00am

Call it, charitably, the inexperience of youth. Or perhaps they were just a little misguided. Two girls, in Hong Kong and the mainland, got into serious trouble after making callous statements about the Sichuan earthquake and its victims on the internet this week.

The Hong Kong girl, known only as Emily, said in her weblog that Sichuan's pandas deserved more help than humans and that people should donate to the animals instead. This provoked a storm in internet chat rooms and blogs. Quickly seeing the error of her ways, Emily sent out repeat apologies on the Net and publicly apologised at her school in Tuen Mun. She admitted her guilt, adding that she was young and and being superficial. Her school principal said everyone should let bygones be bygones and that a social worker has been counselling her.

The girl in the city of Shenyang (pictured) was not so lucky. A day after delivering a diatribe in a five-minute clip on YouTube, she was arrested. In the clip, she said she was neither happy nor unhappy about the quake disaster, just feeling a little pleasure at other people's misfortune. She denounced the hypocrisy of people crying over the victims. 'Sichuan people are poor. Now they have the perfect chance to get everyone to give them money,' she said.

The YouTube clip angered netizens across the mainland. Police in Shenyang quickly got hold of the girls' internet address and arrested her in the city's Sujiatun district. It's not clear what happened to her after that, but netizens are calling for her head.

We hope she has learned a lesson. Let's give her a break, too.