2.10.2009

Beijing is Burning!

This brand-new building designed by Rem Koolhaas went up in flames yesterday. This unconventionally shaped tower houses the Beijing Mandarin Oriental hotel, which was yet to open. It is a part of the TVCC complex, which also houses the very oddly shaped China Central Television headquarters. It is reported that the hotel tower exploded with flames as revelers set off fireworks celebrating the end of Chinese New Year.

An interesting twist on the story has emerged in recent hours, however, regarding coverage of the event in Chinese media(from HuffPo/Reuters):
According to the Shanghai-based site [Shanghaiist], the Chinese government sent notices to various news sources and sites in the mainland in an attempt to control the online coverage of the event. The notice demanded that news outlets cease posting photographs and videos and to only publish details consistent with the official state media report. The notice can be found at chinaSmack, an English-language China news blog.

The chinaSmack site notes that television coverage of the fire was virtually non-existent and that China's bigger sites, such as Sina were made to pull photographs off the Web.
My friend Herman is in Beijing... maybe he has something say about this. Or not, possibly because the gov't has already removed his assuredly investigative report. Why do I suspect this might be happening? In past months, the great Firewall of China was very good at interrupting our skype conversations, eliminating profanity and some vaguely democratic musings. Perhaps I should have resorted to "frak" a la Battlestar Galactica to better communicate my frustration. "Their Own Worst Enemy" by James Fallows for The Atlantic (November 2008) sums things up nicely, though only tangentially related.

And then here is an analysis from the ever enlightening blogosphere:

"I'm not scared, the fire has not spread to the Big Underpants yet!"

If you are still reading, you may also appreciate this virtual tour of the (former) building: