As an observer of PR, one of the things I like about China is that the threshold for launching a cover-up is rock bottom. Sure, they can go big, as with the Songhua river benzene spill or the great melamine scandals of ’08, but they’ve also kind of democratized the coverup. Imagethief believes that no level of government in this country feels complete unless it’s got its own scandal to bury. Moles digging up the beet field? Put a lid on it. Grandma got a run in her stockings? Let’s bury the coverage. So to speak.
Possibly this is linked to pettiness of some of the scams that unfold out in the provinces and thus need to be suppressed ensure continued smooth career progressions for the cadres in range of the excrement helix. How else to explain the restriction of coverage of the alleged discovery and suspiciously rapid death of a Siberian tiger cub in the Wanda mountains of Heilongjiang province, in China’s far northeast?
Jonathan Watts, of the Guardian, has the story:
The first Siberian tiger cub to be found in the wild in China in at least 20 years has died less than two days after being discovered, the Guardian has learned.
Authorities have moved covered up the death, which casts a shadow over what is potentially the best conservation news the country has had for decades.
It also raises questions about the handling and timing of the discovery, which comes as China celebrates the start of the lunar year of the Tiger and a major financial push to save the biggest cat on the planet.
Ma Hongliang, the propaganda chief of The East Is Red Forest Bureau, told the Guardian that the cub is dead, but the news has been withheld. He has advised Central China Television and other domestic journalists not to report the death because of possible negative publicity.
He declined to answer questions about the time and cause of death. “Experts tried their best to save the cub,” he said. “It was too weak to survive.”
Because, you know, discovering the first wild tiger in twenty years smack at the beginning of the year of the tiger in a part of China known for its tiger breeding farms isn’t sketchy at all.
As the story points out, eco-fraud is something of a problem in China, and tigers have been implicated in the past. But, really, why squelch reporting of the death of the tiger, sad though it is? Wouldn’t be easier to just get the news out, heap blame on a couple of powerless unfortunates whom no one will miss, and have done with it? That would probably reduce the risk of the affair dragging on or being outed in the blogosphere down the line.
Or does the whole thing go deeper than we think? Was the tiger rubbed out? Did he know too much? Could he link the whole scandal to the highest levels of government? Would this tiger have talked under pressure? Or maybe his patrons just weren’t powerful enough. After all, as everyone knows, laws aside tigers are generally worth more dead than alive in China.
It’s a tiger, people. This ain’t Kennedy and the grassy knoll. Doesn’t “The East is Red Forest Bureau”* propaganda chief have better things to cover-up?
*Gotta love northeast China.
The great donkey meat – tiger piss – media whore axis (September, 2005 – on the old Imagethief)