Shanghai leaders stress the date of 2012 is purely a coincidence
SHANGHAI: A 15-second-long piece of news broadcast on a local television channel has raised the uneasy question of whether the municipal government is anticipating some calamitous natural disasters in 2012.
A short news segment on Dragon TV disclosed that the construction of up to three underground emergency shelters will be completed by 2012. The segment touched the nerves of many people who, apparently, fear the premise of the Hollywood movie 2012 that the world will end by then.
"I was intrigued when I saw that broadcast," wrote yuxiqingchen, a netizen on Tianya.cn, a popular Chinese online forum. "Is there anything our government isn't telling us?" The post has been forwarded to many other major online forums, especially in the Shanghai region.
"The whole thing smells fishy. Why emphasize 2012? What will happen then?" one netizen asked.
After the huge success of the film 2012, many people have indulged in the game of establishing a link between the recent earthquakes and doom prophesies.
In the Internet age, panic can spread from one person to another in seconds, said Sun Shijin, a professor of psychology at Fudan University.
"It is, therefore, very important for the authorities to establish an effective way of channeling reliable information to the public," he said.
The Shanghai government responded by publishing a "clarification" on its website, saying that the completion of refuge centers by 2012 is just coincidental. More emergency shelters will be built in the following years, the notice said.
"There is nothing special about these shelters," said Lu Shanpeng, an official in the Shanghai municipal civil defense office. "They are all part of the city's long-term civil defense plan."
"A lot of residents wrote to us after the Wenchuan earthquake, suggesting that we should build shelters in case of emergencies," Lu said.
A recent document publicized on the website of the municipal government indicates that two or three Class I emergency shelters will be built, as a precaution against possible natural disasters.
Green Park on Dalian Road is the first experimental emergency shelter under construction in Shanghai. The construction began in 2008 and will be completed at the end of 2011. It covers an area about 20,000 square meters. With basic facilities, including water and a power supply, as well as basic living facilities, the shelter will be able to accommodate more than 8,000 residents.