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Beijing to 'strike' at critics after flood disaster

27 july 2012, 13:14
Authorities in Beijing said they would begin to "strike" out at online critics of the government response to recent record flooding, while declining again Thursday to release updated casualty tolls, AFP reports.

At least 37 people died and seven were missing when the worst rainstorms in six decades pounded Beijing Saturday, leaving the metropolis flooded and tens of thousands of people stranded in surging waters.

A Beijing government spokeswoman told AFP no new update to a four-day old death toll was available Thursday morning.

"Please refer to what we've released online, once progress has been made we'll make it known," she said.

Many residents, some of whom voiced rising anger online over the government response to the disaster, say the true figure may be much higher, after rivers burst their banks and flooded highways, submerging large numbers of vehicles.

In apparent response, authorities have ordered state media to stick to stories "worthy of praise and tears", while censoring the nation's voracious microblogs and threatening arrests.

"From today onward, we will severely strike at those using the Internet to... create and transmit political rumours and attack the (Communist) party, state leaders and the current system," the Beijing Times quoted city police chief Fu Zhenghua as saying Tuesday.

Fu's threats, reported widely Thursday, did not appear to stifle critical comments on Sina Weibo, China's popular Twitter-like microblog, but many postings were quickly deleted before AFP reporters could note the author's identity.

"This is an open confrontation with the people," one posting said of Fu's comments.

"We are again living in the time when the emperor was all powerful," and "China's leaders are all powerful under heaven, their sanctity cannot be violated," said two others. All three postings were deleted soon after they appeared.

Meanwhile, Beijing's Fangshan district, the capital's worst hit by the floods, announced 170,000 head of livestock were killed and 66,000 homes were damaged in the district, the English-language Global Times reported.

"It's ridiculous that the government could account for the dead animals by now, while the human death toll remains at 37, and has not been updated," said Fu Xiao, a local resident quoted by the newspaper.

"That only shows the government cares more about economic losses than people's lives."

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