China: Messages behind the flowers to the Shanghai fire victims

By Oiwan Lam

Yesterday, thousands of mourners in Shanghai flocked to the 28-storey apartment block that was gutted by a tragic fire on November 15 to pay their respects for the 58 residents who perished. Much of China's headlines today focus on the collective mourning, but few have highlighted the messages behind citizens' insistence in offering flowers at the disaster site.

Messages behind the flowers

Runningnini and a number of mainland Chinese Twitterers recommend their followers to read the Beijing News' interpretation of the messages behind the flowers:

献花是因为同体的悲悯,也是公众理性追索的开始。在这种市民自发的行动当中,公民也正在参与并推动着善治。相信每一个去献花的以及那些关注献花的人士,都 不会认为,自己与这场大火毫无关系。在祭奠逝者的同时,相信很多人还在追问,这场“本可以避免”的特大公共安全事故何以发生?怎样哀悼才能彰显“生命在这 个时代具有最高贵的价值”?一个社会的公共安全又该如何实现?

Offering flowers is an act of collective mourning and it is also the beginning of rational public inquiry into the accident. The spontaneous citizen action is a participation and advocacy of good governance. Every person who has offered flowers on the disaster scence or who has paid attention to the news is concerned about the fire accident. Apart from mourning, many keep asking, how could this “preventable” public security incident have happened? What kind of mourning could reflect the value of the victims' lives? What is the meaning of public security and how it should be realized?

Zhyuanjie's tweet echoes Beijing News' interpretation:

上海十万民众昨天自发上街悼念1115 特大火灾遇难者,花圈挽联从黄埔江畔世博会四面八方涌向火灾遗址。上海昨天成为一座哀城哭城。上海市民在心中为死难者下半旗。也许还有对强拆、建筑质量、施工安全和消防能力以及政府工作的担忧。

A hundred thousand Shanghai residents spontaneously took to the street to mourn for the November 15 victims. Flowers have extended from Huangpu river bank to the charred building site, and Shanghai has turned into a crying city. Shanghai residents have lowered their flags in their hearts for the victim. Perhaps, they are also wary of problems like forced demolition, building quality, construction security, fire rescue ability and government performance.

Song Jianfeng believes that such collective mourning is a show of respect for life:

我之所以今天开始敬佩上海人,是因为山西河南等地曾有那么多次灾难,人们都麻木地忍受和接受了,并没有公众自发的哀悼,就连矿工家属们都很淡定地接受了现 实;唯有上海,中国一线大城市的人民,表达了他们对生命的尊重:他们对生命的尊严不抛弃,不放弃!有微博曾抱怨不平等,这怪谁,权利要自己争取!

I have developed a high regard for the Shanghainese today. In Shanxi and Henan, where there are so many disasters, people just accept it as a part of the reality and there has not been any spontaneous public mourning. Even the families of the victims, they accepted the accidents as a matter of fact. However, in Shanghai, China's first-tier city, people have expressed their respect for life. They would not give up their respect for life. Some people complained that it is unfair that Shanghai gained so much attention, however, you have to stand for your own rights.

Blaming the welders

Up to now, the government has not released the names of 58 victims and 56 missing persons. On November 16, local police arrested 8 suspects, among them three unlicensed welders and one sub-contractor. The government has concluded that the cause of the fire was illegal welding activities by unlicensed welders working on the apartment block. Many responded that the government was using the lowest strata of workers as a scapegoat for the accident. A young welder protests online:

一个焊工,听的老板的命令干活,拿着百把来块钱一天的工资拼死拼活。说白了,我们只是听令于人,即使我们知道安全不合规,但老板让你干,你难道不干吗?出 了事就把焊工无证这事拿出来顶罪。这事做出来,简直无耻兼X L。但这样无耻兼X L的事情在光天化日之下的上海发生。…

A welder who earns around 100 yuan a day just takes orders from his boss. Even if we know that there is a security problem, when the boss orders you to do the work, how can you say no? When shit happens they blame the unlicensed welders. This is shameless. But such a shameless act is now happening in Shanghai under the sun…

我看到央视的新闻中,道貌岸然的主持人用威严的声音宣读他们是犯罪嫌疑人。在新华社的通稿里,看到写着这样的字眼,他们是重大事故责任罪,还说在现场, 公共安全专家机关发现了电焊枪,电焊设备等大理的作案工具。还形成了无懈可击的证据链。除了悲愤,只能感叹这些无耻喉舌的无限无耻。电焊枪,电焊设备了成了作案工具?难不成这四个电焊工是KB分子,他们偷偷将电焊设备运至大楼外架,然后用电焊飞见来放火杀人。的喉舌莫非也太搞笑了。

On CCTV news [China's major state broadcaster], the moralistic host announced with her righteous voice that they are the criminal suspects. In the Xinhua news wire, it was said that they had committed a serious crime. They even reported that public security experts found welding tools on the scene as invincible evidence for the crime. This is totally shameless bullshit. Welding tools have turned into tools for criminal act, as if welders had smuggled the welding tools to the building construction frame and used them for setting up fire and killing people. The party mouthpiece is too ridiculous.

希望大家不要把愤怒发泄在无证电焊工身上! 在上海电焊工之中十个有九个没有证,有证的也许都是假的!其实有没有证不是问题的关键,问题是要有一个健全的管理机制,和一个以人为本的社会机制!在我们 这个伟大的国家,工程是不需要投标的,资质可以挂靠的,业务是要回扣的,民工是没有保障的,社会是没有道德的……全国都在盯着钞票看!神马奥运世博亚运都 是浮云!


Please do not place your anger onto the welders. In Shanghai most of the welders do not have licenses. Even if they have, they are probably fake ones. The key is not the license but an effective managing system and a social system that takes care of people's needs. In our country, there is no open tender for the construction project. A company can easily hook up with another company to get a project, and in the process, someone has to pay. Rural migrant workers are unprotected. The society is immoral… The whole country follows the money logic, the Olympics or the Expo are pure performance.

Rural migrant workers should not become the scapegoat for corrupted power.

Local investigative reporters have proven the above testimony. In addition to the fact that Shanghai city's fire fighters did not have effective equipment to fight the high-rise fire, the subcontract system has been pinpointed as the root cause behind a lack of regulation and monitoring of construction security. Chao Lihua has uploaded a graph indicating the 4-layer subcontracting system of the construction project (see picture on the right).

Unveiling the truth

While government officials try to cover up their mistakes, people are determined to find out the truth. A photo showing a brunch of flowers offering to rural migrant worker victims has been widely circulated online. The note on the photo says:


Condolences to rural migrant workers and houseworkers. Someday we will find your names.

Microblog comments that followed the photo included:

朱-杭 强烈要求政府尽快讲清事情真相,公布逝者名单。惩治失职人员!(今天 01:53)
杨小包子 转发此微博:中国人是有名字的!(11月21日 21:20)
youyile 你怎么样,中国便怎么样。你是什么,中国便是什么。你有光明,中国便不黑暗。”(11月21日 21:19)
Ginie910 標淚, 這其實是正常不過最基本的事情 - 一份真實的死傷人員名單, 却要苦苦等候/哀求….
砂子丢 如果有一天,在灾难面前,显眼的不是那些一串串第一线领导得名字,而是一个个受难者的名字,这个民族,才受的起人们的尊重(11月21日 19:05)

朱-杭: The government should unveil the truth and release the names of the victims. Punish those who have committed the crime of negligence. (Today 01:53)
杨小包子: retweet: Chinese people have names! (Nov 21 21:20)
youyile: How you behave, China will behave; what you become, China will become; you give light and China will not be dark. (Nov 21 21:19)
Ginie910: Tears rush out from my eyes. This is such a simple request, a list of the victims. Yet we have to wait and beg in bitterness.
砂子丢: If some day, when disaster happens, what we see is not a list of leaders' names, but a list of victims' names, we can show our respect to this nation. (Nov 21 19:05)

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