Chinese Weibo users who happened to be awake and logged on in the middle of the night learned of the bomb blast that hit the Boston Marathon on Monday almost as soon as it happened, courtesy of the micro-blog postings of Wang Shi.
Wang, founder and chairman of the nation’s largest property developer China Vanke, had traveled to Boston to watch his 15 employees cross the finish line, as he wrote on Weibo about an hour before the explosion. An article published by Bloomberg offers a detailed breakdown of the events that followed.
One minute before the bombs detonated, at 2:49 pm Boston time, Wang uploaded a photo of a Vanke employee shrouded in a Chinese flag and greeting family members. He then disappeared from the blogosphere until 3:12 pm, when he returned to post a photo of what he saw. Wang also posted video footage of the explosions and their aftermath.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
According to a translation by the South China Morning Post, soon after the blasts Wang wrote, "Near the end of the track there were two loud bangs, the competition has ended, evacuation…the force of the explosion is not very strong, suspected terrorist act."
“The first explosion wasn’t very loud – like a tire blowing out or salute from a gun,” Wang told Wall Street Journal blog China Real Time. “After the second explosion, we realized something was wrong but we were confused about what it was.” Wang added, “I’m angry that terrorists took advantage of an international competition. I love this city. I love the attitude of people in Boston.”
Other Chinese Weibo users took the heavy coverage of the attacks as an opportunity to comment on other aspects of media coverage in China more broadly. "Chinese media are full of detailed and timely reports with pictures and texts on accidents that happen abroad," wrote a micro-blogger from Fujian on Tuesday. "But I did not see such an array of reports for the fire that happened in Hubei on the 14th causing 14 deaths and 47 people injured."
The Bloomberg report also noted a post by an anonymous Chinese Weibo user who went by the handle, Pretending to be in New York: “Three hours after the Boston bombing: the websites and televisions have live scrolls, not publicity bans; police hold a news conference immediately to react to information and be transparent and, as a result, there is no panic; Google established a person finder. The positive interaction of major public events, government, media, businesses, citizens, is something we should learn from.”
The report noted that some posts even posited conspiracy theories that the United States had staged the attacks as a pretext to attack North Korea. But by and large, the tone was respectful and sympathetic.
The article notes that LobsBoston, a website catering to Boston’s Chinese population, summed it up best with this post: “Boston is the best city in the U.S. and the world regardless of the criteria used. It has the best university, the most legendary teams. Many people don’t like LA or New York, but nobody can deny Boston. I love Boston, and I pray for you.”