China begins national mourning - Internet and broadcast media restricted

May 19th 2008


At 2.28 p.m. local Beijing time - the moment the devastating earthquake occurred on May 12 - millions of people in China and overseas observed three minutes of silence. Across the country, sirens, cars, trains and ship horns wailed in grief as the people fell silent. More than 32,000 people have been confirmed dead and the estimated death toll could top 50,000.


National flags fly at half mast, public entertainments is cancelled and the Olympic torch relay is suspended during the three-day mourning period.

The Chinese Government has ordered all entertainment centric web sites and even television programming to shut down completely for the next three days. Only TV stations broadcasting the official CCTV earthquake programming will remain on air.


China Daily reported yesterday "... all public amusements will be suspended for three days from Monday as China begins an official mourning period ... the State Council, the Cabinet ordered a nationwide display of respect for the dead ..."


Gaming portals like, and Shanda Online have already completely shut down. Other websites like the major portals Sina, Sohu & 163 and the video sharing sites Tudou & Youku have limited their offerings to news content. Furthermore, all major websites in China have adapted a black and white layout, as the screenshots provided below show.


Last Friday leading news portal Sina unexpectetly launched an English version of its website. This major news was followed by another announcement reporting the launch of a special English coverage on Sichuan earthquake on its WAP site two days later. The special report offers round-the-clock coverage on the quake relief efforts and current situations in Sichuan and other quake-affected areas.


The English special report on Sina WAP will work together with the Internet-based Sina English to provide Sina's worldwide user base (230 million registered users) with the latest and fullest coverage of Sichuan earthquake. According to sources with Sina, Sina WAP will use the experience they gain in this special English reporting to launch a large-scale English coverage on the coming Olympic games in August.

Here is the translation of an announcement regarding the suspension of public amusement sent out by the government in Hefei, Anhui, provided by Shanghaiist:


To all propaganda departments, online propaganda units and foreign affairs offices, and to the various bureaus and websites in all cities and counties:

The State Council has gazetted May 19-21 as national days for mourning. In line with the spirit of the Central Foreign Affairs Office's emergency notice, the requirements are as follows:


1. All websites are to immediately report and give priority to reports on the national mourning days declared by the Central Government, the State Council and in your province. While spreading the word online, also exhaust all mobile means including SMS, MMS, etc. The statement by the State Council is to be given priority spacing on the home page of all major websites.


2. All websites are to stop all entertainment activities and services for three days. From May 19 00:00 to May 21 24:00, all gaming websites and gaming channels of major portals are to shut down; Cover all entertainment channels on websites and programmes with a message of mourning, and none of the other pages within these channels should be accessible; All entertainment BBS's are to be shut; All music and video search functions at search engine portals to be shut; All entertainment advertisements should be offline.

3. Thorough organisation of the online mourning campaign. The online atmosphere of all portals should be in line with the national mourning period. All news portals and commercial portals are to organise online mourning campaigns that allow for participation by netizens, and should reflect the grief and patriotism of netizens in an all-round manner.

4. Thoroughly manage online discussion. All propaganda bureaus and foreign affairs offices in all cities and counties to operate on a 24 hour basis, and each shift is to have a supervisor. For implementation details please call Online Propaganda Bureau (0551-2606017)

5. Proper implementation. All propaganda bureaus and foreign affairs offices and all relevant departments are to work together and to get the above instructions to all news portals, commercial portals, government portals under their control, and mobilise all resources to supervise the implementation. All propaganda bureaus and foreign affairs offices in various cities and all staff are to be involved to ensure a timely and proper implementation of the work instructions.

6. Strict discipline for those departments, localities and websites that have not kept in line with standards. Closure awaits non-compliant portals and investigation to follow to pinpoint responsibility.