Last week, nine tons of aniline, a toxic chemical, poisoned Changzhi's water supply. After citizens took to the web to demand an explanation for why they hadn't been informed of the leak, Beijing started to clamp down on free speech.
Last Saturday in Handan, a city of 1.3 million people in northern China, the water just turned off. The local government made the quick decision after a chemical leak that had occurred upstream five days earlier, in the city of Changzhi, could apparently no longer be covered up. After citizens took to the web to demand an explanation for why they hadn't been informed of the leak, the reply from Wang Yiping, an official in Changzhi, was classic propaganda chief:
"We report in accordance with the procedures, we didn’t delay the report for five days. As long as the pollution is within the Changzhi boundary, it’s not necessary to report to the provincial government, we can deal with it on our own, we only need to report to the provincial government if the pollution goes out of Changzhi city. I’m not sure about the details."
But the residents of Handan were sure. Nine tons of aniline, a toxic chemical, drove their water supply 720 times above the safe consumption limit.
The incident has received little attention outside China—it's just one of thousands of water pollution accidents in the country every year—but it's ignited a fresh firestorm over censorship just as Beijing's new government appears to be clamping down on free speech in traditional and online media.
Read the rest over at Motherboard.