A fatal virus has contaminated pork sold in Beijing. A big earthquake will
rock Shanghai, causing a deadly tsunami.
Sudden death was the common fear among residents of two cities over the
weekend. And the source of the rumors in both cases was information technology;
SMS to be more precise.
In fact, many Beijingers who had eaten pork for lunch or dinner, and not many
Chinese meals are without pork, suffered a psychosomatic attack. They complained
of an upset stomach or an imaginary pain after receiving an SMS from friends or
The virus was alleged to cause pyogenic encephalitis that destructs the
brain, filling its cavities with pus.
Such was the fear that presidents of major hospitals held an emergency
meeting to scotch the rumors.
In Shanghai, the paranoia was different. Some Hollywood fortune-teller was
alleged to have sent e-mails, which were posted on online forums, saying a big
earthquake and tsunami were about to hit the coastal city.
Though doctors, as in Beijing, and some other people across the two cities
tried to calm down the residents, it was the authorities' prompt denial that
In Beijing, Zhao Chunhui, deputy head of the municipal health bureau, told
Xinhua on Saturday: "Pork sold in Beijing has to meet strict standards. It's
perfectly fit for human consumption The rumors are nothing but lies."
An unidentified official of Shanghai's seismological bureau said major
earthquakes and tsunamis cannot hit the city because of its geological features.
He told the local Wenhui Daily: "Nine tsunamis have been recorded in the
history, and none of them caused great damage to the coastal regions And their
impact on Shanghai has been minimal."
Netizens praised the authorities for their timely response in both the
cities, with experts saying that they should react similarly to all events that
caused public panic.
Rumors gain momentum if trusted organizations don't come up with a
satisfactory explanation promptly, said Meng Wei, researcher at the Institute of
Journalism and Communication affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social
In such an event, the authorities should communicate with traditional media
sources such as newspapers and television channels, which are more trusted by
the people than the Internet, he said.
Rumors on the Internet were rampant in last year. Last June, there was a
strong one about industrial and commercial administration officials beating to
death a high school student who was selling vegetables with his mother at a flea
market in East China's Shandong Province.
It was also rumored that the boy had just been admitted to Tsinghua
University in Beijing.
Netizens got furious when they read the story and when the local officials
tried not to comment on it.
(China Daily 01/15/2007 page3)