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Chinese media reacts to Virginia Tech shootings

Reports and discussion about Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech filled the Chinese media and online forums today.

News was gleaned from reports from the American press and from Chinese journalists stationed in the US. There was some analysis - background on other school shootings, discussions about the gun ownership, open campuses, and the "culture of violence," and speculations on whether Asians will face discrimination as a result of the incident (verdict: probably not).

Online, the incident was a popular topic on the forums; Netease has two threads that currently have more than 10,000 comments apiece, and it seems the vast majority of BBS posts expressed shock and sympathy. An anonymous post to Sina's forums assessed reactions both online and in the mainstream media. An excerpt:

If it were put into a political textbook more than a decade ago, this incident would probably have been used as evidence of the decay of the capitalist world. I had assumed that people today would have a different understanding from that, but among netizens there were still a good number who commented, "American hegemony gets its just reward," "A so-called free, civilized country; the sorrow of a country overflowing with guns," (these and others from Sina's forums). I really want to ask them if they ever considered the following when they wrote these remarks: is this a problem unique to the US? Do they not remember Jin Ruchao and the Shijiazhuang bombing, or Ma Jiajue, the architect of the bloody case at Yunnan University? What's more, using this incident for mockery, to gloat, "one killing 32 - that's really something!" "America, the land of heroes! Hail to the hero!" So cold toward life, I genuinely do not know whether they possess a human conscience at all!

Fortunately, many netizens were not like that. When people saw the news, the first reaction was shock and sympathy. "A moment of silence for the departed! Systems may be different, but people's lives are the same! I condemn all terrorist activity!" "Those loathsome terrorists, always creating tragedy for humanity. A moment of silence for the departed!" Shock arises from the sorrow of fellow humans, and sympathy comes out of human affection; in the words of one netizen, "Love knows no national borders." Some netizens then proceeded to soberly reflect on issues sucha as the legal system, education, and human nature. "No matter the country, there are always people dissatisfied with society; only the numbers are different," "A harmonious world is what everyone needs." And this too came out of concern and consideration for the fate of all humanity.

What was the attitude of the domestic mainstream media to this? I did not catch the CCTV news, so I went to the CCTV website. This incident was the top story on the website, with the headline, "Worst shooting ever occurs at American university, 33 dead." Listed under the headline were several news items: "Shooting occured at Virginia Tech," "The shooter was Asian," "The killer shot himself," "No known Chinese deaths at present." It must be said that this kind of report exhibits the two fundamental elements of news: it is objective and factual. In the later in-depth reports, we see CCTV ask experts and scholars for their opinions on the incident, and according to what has been experienced in this sort of thing in the past, the majority of the commentators will present objective commentary from a professional perspective that is not lacking in concern.

The shooter has now been identified as a South Korea student residing in the US. Earlier today, however, rumors were circulating that the killer was a 24-year-old Chinese man who had come to the US last year and who was not a VT student.

A journalist with a CCTV news program wrote on her blog that this possibility ultimately caused their report to be scrapped. She comments:

Instinct at the time was: not doing it would be unacceptable and a dereliction of duty. However, to do it might run into temporary restrictions, and it might even be killed before being born. Regardless, the first thing is to get going on it. This was the opinion of the editor in chief, and also that of us workers....Originally, the thought was to come up with a plan as quickly as possible and let the leaders pass a verdict on it, but something unexpected came up: the leaders quickly "became aware of the serious nature of the issue" and "stopped up a hole that could be problematic for propaganda."

The journalist writes that the story was replaced with a piece on the kidnapping of a BBC reporter and another on the Darfur issue, for which the leaders had another set of restricted guidelines.

In online forums, some commenters said that the shooter could not possibly be Chinese, because a 24-year-old would have to have been in the army to learn how to shoot like that, and those people don't go overseas for college.

The current situation has most major media saying that the killer was Chinese. This has been basically denied by overseas students.

According to the survivors, the killer was skilled at reloading. He wore a baseball cap and a black leather jacket.

Most importantly, the killer wore a bullet-proof vest.

The situation ended when the police discovered a dead Asian male with a gun in his hand. But many questions remain.

That person had killed himself by shooting himself in the back of the head. This is not logical. This configuration is awkward. His facial features are destroyed so he is unrecognizable. Would a gun-savvy person wearing body armor ultimately kill himself to end things? Most VT students believe that the killer mixed in among the students and escaped.

Other comments (on Sina, since deleted) extended this line of logic into a conspiracy theory, postulating that a Chinese international student had been used as a pawn by the real killers.

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There are currently 17 Comments for Chinese media reacts to Virginia Tech shootings.

Comments on Chinese media reacts to Virginia Tech shootings

the chinese media's description focuses on the nationality of the killer on the virginia campus. just a look at news at sina or google news page in chinese reveals that these newspapers and websites reporters vied each other to put the words "south korean" in titles. i read the shooting at new york times website and major reports there do not mention the 20-something came from korea. i believe this is due to political correctness rather than a vagueness about a fact not yet clarified. it is reported that the grade schoolar came to the united states in 1992, that is, 15 years ago. i believe american reporters know nationality or one's ancestrial root is a very sensitive issue. the guy came from korea as a preteenager and he grew up in usa. his birthplace did not play a part in this tragedy, though some repurcussions may affect some people's attitude toward other people. why chinese media grabs and relishes this unimportant aspect is beyond me at present. thanks for yor report. before i read yours, i only guessed probably they had worried that it might have been a chinese, for initial reports mentioned that it was a guy from asia. now i can almost hear chinese editors sigh and feel relieved when they learned it was not chinese. when they say it was a south korean, they are actually saying hey, guys, it was not one of us chinese. but in fact, these chinese editors and journalists really don't know whether this guy was still of the south korean nationality. probably it's meaningless to stress the fact that the guy was born in korea. this fact is not emphasized in usa, a country of immigrants. unless there are good reasons to point it out. i guess it is politically incorrect to stress the fact. but nationality is a key issue in the chinese media's eye and reasons for this requires in-depth analysis. i guess it is not just a difference in cultures.

The headline of today's Shanghai Morning Post (新闻晨报) is "Killer reported as Korean" (凶手『韩籍』), which backs up joe's impression.

[EDITOR'S NOTE (JM): Article is here]

Yeah the Chinese media is being insensitive, I agree with everything you said. This is not about South Koreans. This is about this one psychopathic individual.

However, almost all the sources (BBC/CNN/FOXNEWS/ etc...) I have read/watched has at one point or another mentioned that he was born in South Korea and immigrated to the States at 8 years old. This has never been the focus on any of the reports. CNN ran a segment on the gathering of South Korean community at Cho's hometown, and some info about his parents (hard working immigrants). Perhaps because of the time differences you read reports from Monday?

Update: CNN and Fox News took out the mentioning of his South Korean heritage. [I meant both CNN/Fox had the info on their front page etc...]

I do not think race is playing a big part in this.

On Chinese media: I was at my parents watching Phoniex T.V one of the editor was criticizing the Chinese media on exactly this point. The jest of it was that America is an mature society that is much more sensitive on the issue of race etc...

On the shooter:

This is one deranged dude. He is a victim in some way. Never an excuss for shooting 32 people tho.

We should all think about our actions and should all strive to be kind to someone. Perhaps it will make some kind of difference in someone's life.

Really a sad sad tragedy man...

I don't know this will probably sound insensitive I don't care but much more violent events are happening daily in Iraq... Think about that...

Wow, Jay. I don't think Buddha believed in a hierarchy of suffering. The path is still long for you, boy.

joe:paragraphs. Try them. I have gone cross-eyed.

Fox news: in early reports, Geraldo several times made the point that the killer was a 'legal' immigrant. Probably as a response to the O'Reilly showdown.

i think it's not too hard to understand why the chinese (and other asian) people and media deem the ethnical indentity of the shooter is important, this alternet article sums it up very well, link

Hey, dude.

I'm a Chinese student now in Japan. I totally understand the feeling of these journalists.

First, I feel all the Chinese living outside China are under somewhat pressure. Because there we are minorities and we're quiet, there're always worries to get marginalized.

Second, I don't know the situations in US, but in Japan, frankly speaking, I feel pretty bad how the media do with and report things about Chinese. Even an American friend told me that I have enough reasons to hate Japan (I liked Japan before I came here, of course). Also I have had numerous times someone in the restaurant, on the street or even in the university started provoking me into anger after he knew I'm from China. If it was Chinese who caused the accident then I'm afraid there'll be another good reason for starting an anti-Chinese movement (Japanese won't talk to you face to face but he'll just look at you strangely. Yada ne!).

I don't want to blame too much on the US media which misreported fact. It's the deadliest university accident in US history so if the truth can be declared properly, I can totally accept that.

I tracked the news on CNN, BBC, and some major internet media in Japan and China. Sarcastically, both CNN and BBC only mentioned the suspect was Asian, but some of the major media in Japan and China (Yes, our own loving media) quoted the wrong news without independent thinking. I blame them for their unprofessional job.

The focus should not be the nationality of the murderer. There's no logic to assign the personality of an individual to the whole nation. But it reflects the fact that racism is still universal and the question is: Can we stop stereotyping?

As a student, I feel very sad about the accident. Universities are supposed to be a happy place. Let's mourn for the dead.


I'm neither a Buddist nor a Prodigy... I'm a Buddist Prodigy!

That is to say, I'm not a buddist, nor am I a prodigy, I'm a Buddist Prodigy!

LOL. It's up to the reader to infer the meaning.

Seriously tho I'm agnostic leaning heavily towards atheism... Religion is the opiate for the masses yo!

I'm an American woman living and teaching in China. The fact is that racism exists in every country. I've seen it in the USA and I've seen it just as much in China. Racism exists everywhere humans live. Let's not be so naive, self-righteous and so self-unaware as to point our fingers at others during a time of tragedy. It's so childish. Murder is tragic, no matter who kills or who is killed. It's up to each individual to stop pointing fingers at nations or medias and look inside himself to see if there is any hatred in his/her own heart, and if so, to stop it dead in it's tracks. Let's not be in denial about the state of our hearts. Humans are selfish, regardless of nationality.

Uhh, Joe and Jay, I don't know which American media you have been checking, but almost all major US media repeatedly refer to Cho Seung-hui as the "South Korean national" (or something similar to that). Only Washington Post had a headline that read "Centerville (VA) student was shooter at VT", and only mentioned the fact that he immigrated to the US from South Korea in the 2nd or 3rd paragraph. One comment by WP reader specifically thanked them for characterizing Cho as being from Centerville and also pointed out that all other US media basically labled him a Korean.

As a Chinese living in the US, I can honestly tell you that nationality, at least those of Asians, remain a big deal here. Even many US-born Asians still complain of being considered foreigners (such as "compliments" that they speak very good English). Of course I would like to see all the racial and color barriers eliminated. I hate to say it, but the situation in the US now is not yet there. For the white males who think the US is above China in these issues, try to put yourself in others' shoes for a while. For example, in the handling of Katrina: African-Americans believe they were neglected by the govt due to racial factor, while >80% white Americans think that was nonsense. In other words, whites like to think that there is no more racial prejudice and it's all rosy in the US, but minorities have a differnet take on it.

I for one breathed a sigh (a small one) when the shooter was identified as a Korean national. The South Korean embassy and forieng ministry have expressed concerns of reprisal attacks on Koreans and racial prejudice in US after this incident.
I do akcnowledge that most Americans are not such radicals, but sometimes people can do irrational things, especially when under a mob mentality. The story of Vincent Chin is still fairly fresh in many Asian Ameicans' minds.

Just like some of the blogs quoted by this article stated, such tragic massacres are not unique to the US. Heck, I can think of much worse ones in China and many other countries. The point? That the US, China, and many countries, have many aspects in common. It's irresponsible for some of you to claim here that China is more insensitive on these matters without putting things in context or even getting some of the facts straight.

Hmm actually I'm Chinese American.

I wanted to say something like that then I read the previous poster's thing, but years of PC correctness brain-washing took over and I went on to say I agree that the Chinese media is being insensitive.

It just goes to show I'm pretty fucking brain washed yo.

But my post was to point out that the U.S media does play the race game. I just didn't make it clear...

I feel a lot of what you are saying, since I live in U.S, I feel the things you are talking about. If you don't believe this guy I mean the U.S is pretty much defined on race imho.
Most people self segregate. The U.S is probably even more defined on classism.

Just today walking around campus I can feel people are staring at me more than usual. I don't know I look pretty fuckin out there? I'm a pretty introverted dude studying math. A bit eccentric perhaps but not a psycho killer.

Matter fact I will most likely be skipping school tomorrow.

The really sad thing is watching Cho's video my initial reaction was that I wish I known him so I could have talked him down. I can see myself being this guy's friend...

Initial TV reports (CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc.) on the day of the shooting did in fact mention that the Asian shooter was possibly a Chinese national. It wasn't until much later that the more accurate identity of the killer was produced and reported as Korean-American.

For those of you who believe Chinese are incapable of this barbaric behavior, perhaps you have forgotten the famous Wah Mee Massacre in Seattle's Chinatown in 1983 which was the work of 3 Chinese-American immigrants who executed 14 people in an old International District gambling den.

I don't recall Deng Xiaoping issuing an official apology on behalf of the motherland back then but Korea's president felt compelled to do so for this deranged student who literally, as often said in Oriental cross-cultural studies, "lost his face". (Evidently "losing face" is a serious issue with Koreans; at least that's what I heard somebody say on CNN!)

hmmm nobody is saying that Chinese are not "capable" of sadistic violent events. Chinese are just as sadistic as everyone else thank you.

I'm not putting any weight on the fact that the shooter was Korean.

Anyone else watch the debate show on Phoenix T.V?

It was on this topic. They had many good points on the Chinese media and netizen reactions.

I can't translate well so can't help you there.

Why did I feel guilty about the Chinese media and Chinese netizens? I shouldn't. It's just like American media and American netizens. You will get different view points. There will always be an element that spreads insensitivity and extreme hatred. Why do you expect Chinese to be different. Do you seriously expect the CHinese to speak in one voice? Is Chinese culture suppose to be some perfect culture without fault?

You say this and that but I can assure you if I wanted I can find all kinds of holes in any culture.

Why can't we just all view each other as human beings. None of us is perfect. Everyone's got their own little problems. One thing that I do believe is that most people are good and they do care about others, i.e the empathy thing. Without empathy you are nothing but a psychotic weirdo.

Sorry about the rant and lack of grammar.

Dude I'm going to move on. This topic is burning me out man...

I guess I feel a little bit insecure about all this due to the fact long ago I was a little nihilistic (depression) like Cho...This whole thing struck a certain nerve from the past.

Condolences to all the victim's families.

The End.

Wow! You don't understand why it was so important to identify the shooter as Korean. Maybe because someone lied in the beginning and said it was a Chinese national with terrorism links. That's why! Someone in the US wanted to use this tragedy for their own personal anti-China political purposes since none of the initial reports had any truth so it couldn't have been a mistake. And why are you concentrating on the Chinese media making it a point that he was Korean. I live in the US and everytime they show this guy on the news they mention he's South Korean.

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