People Told to Be 'Thankful' After Deadly Earthquake
'This is clearly a tragedy, and yet it’s made into a celebration'
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2018 5:10 PM CDT
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Former students of destroyed Beichuan New Middle School remember their classmates who died when the school was destroyed in the May 12, 2008 earthquake, on grave sweeping day in Beichuan in southwestern China's Sichuan province, in an April 4, 2009 file photo.   (AP Photo/ Elizabeth Dalziel, File)

(Newser) – Chinese government officials are calling the deadly Sichuan earthquake's 10-year anniversary "Thanksgiving Day," but critics don't seem too thankful for the new term, the New York Times reports. "Everyone knows that the earthquake killed tens of thousands of people on that day, and yet you call it 'Thanksgiving Day,'" says one user on Weibo, a microblogging site. "What do we give thanks for?" Another says, "This is clearly a tragedy, and yet it's made into a celebration." But the government sees reason for thanks, saying in state news media that "beautiful, tidy buildings" fill once-decimated areas and residents have expressed "gushing springs of gratitude" for help the region received. So is the government just glossing over a nightmare experience?

To recap the nightmare: The magnitude 7.9 quake on May 12, 2008, left 87,000 people dead or missing, notes AFP, and killed an estimated 5,335 children when poorly built schools collapsed. China sent nearly 150,000 troops to the region, and money poured in from corporations and celebrities. But outrage grew as word got out that thousands of schools were shoddily built, possibly due to corruption, and earned the nickname "tofu schools." All criticism of the schools' construction was silenced and lawsuits were forbidden, reports CNN. But the government's reframing of tragic events to reflect positively on the country is not unusual, says David Bandurski, a co-director of the China Media Project. State media will often "cast tragedy in a new light" to deflect from "political and institutional failures," he says.

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