Google Blogoscoped

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Karamay Fire

If you research the Karamay fire incident in Google China, the results will be partly censored by Google. Karamay is a city where a theatre fire incident took place in 1994, killing hundreds of people. Depending on your search query, the results will show fully, or be censored (due to local laws and policies, as Google disclaims in some places). For instance, a web search for “Karamay” in traditional Chinese letters will be censored. The page missing in Google is likely an article from Epoch Times about the fire, as it shows in Chinese results for the same search. A search for “Karamay fire” in simplified Chinese shows no censorship in the top 30 web results, but only in later results. The same simplified Chinese search in Google Images China however returns censored results on the first page (a article is missing). Censorship on Google News is undisclosed by Google – except for a blog post from 2004 – so it’s not easy to find out about it (perhaps one can compare results with Google News Hong Kong). Google Book Search China self-censorship is also undisclosed by Google, and Google does not give more details to the press regarding these issues.

Times Online explains the background of this incident:

WHEN the first flames flared around the theatre’s stage, many of the excited Chinese children watching must have thought it was all part of the show.

Within minutes 288 of them were dead, a tragedy that has haunted their parents for more than a decade but was forgotten by many as China began its headlong rush to prosperity.

It is not forgotten any more, thanks to a band of internet campaigners who have exposed the shameful truth: the schoolchildren perished because they were ordered to sit down in their theatre seats so that Communist party officials could leave first.

The revelations have prompted millions of Chinese to discuss the incident in recent weeks and forced the state-controlled media to acknowledge it for the first time.

The facts were suppressed for more than 12 years until Chen Yaowen, a reporter for China Central Television, posted on his website a documentary that he had made about the disaster but which the censors had banned.

[Via Reddit.]


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