Front pages recall the 5.12 quake, and keep a nervous eye on swine flu

By David Bandurski — Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake. According to the latest official numbers, 68,712 died in the quake, of which 5,335 were students, and 17,921 remain missing, bringing the official human toll of the earthquake to 86,633. Given the importance of this anniversary, one might expect it to dominate the front pages of major newspapers across China. But that’s not exactly the full story today.

The two major stories today are the earthquake anniversary and the discovery of China’s first domestic case of swine flu in the city of Chengdu, which happens to be just 50 miles from the epicenter of last year’s quake.

Both of these stories were given priority on the front page of the party’s official People’s Daily today.

The narrow news space at the top of People’s Daily, generally devoted to important policy announcements, ran a story about an important directive from President Hu Jintao on readiness in dealing with the H1NI virus. Hu said China “needed to further strengthen its leadership, continuing to take the initiative in tackling crisis preparedness work, scientifically and effectively carrying out preventive measures, using all strength to check the spread of the epidemic in our country and ensure the health and safety of the Chinese people.”


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[ABOVE: The front page of the party’s official People’s Daily today.]

The larger story below this one (with photo) was about Hu Jintao’s meeting in Chengdu with various diplomats and heads of state present in Sichuan to attend the Wenchuan earthquake memorial event today. Hu Jintao expressed his thanks for the broad international support China was given in its time of need, and praised the way the Chinese people (the People’s Liberation Army, etc.) had “united in the struggle” for rescue and relief following the quake.

Most newspapers, party and commercial, have given prominence to the earthquake anniversary on their front pages. For an excellent collage of front pages across the country, visit this special page set up by QQ.com.

Here is the front page of today’s Southern Metropolis Daily, somewhat reminiscent of front pages we saw across China during the national period of mourning last year:

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[ABOVE: The front page of today’s Southern Metropolis Daily: “.”]

But a few papers, notably Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post, focussed their front page attention on the H1N1 story. Here is today’s Oriental Morning Post, which shows a photo of the swine flu patient — a Chinese graduate student from the University of Missouri — currently under treatment in Chengdu.

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[Posted by David Bandurski, May 12, 2009, 12:07pm HK]

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