Source: Fudan University on Sina Weibo.
A massive ceremony was conducted at Fudan University this morning to mourn the loss of Anhui policeman Zhang Ninghai, who died while rescuing a team of 18 mountain climbers, mostly from the university’s mountain climbing association, who had earlier wandered into a restricted zone at the Yellow Mountain.
The ceremony was hastily put together after a torrent of criticism was unleashed against the group of mountain climbers following an Anhui journalist‘s revelation that the students showed no remorse for the loss of life. Several reporters were given the cold shoulder and despite repeated questions, no response was forthcoming. The students left the group of bewildered journalists behind as they got on a van, slammed the door shut behind them, and went on their way back to Shanghai.
Online messages between some of the students on the Chinese social network Renren.com were later leaked out in the public domain. One of them had advised another student who was soon going to take over the presidency of the club, “You need to learn something about crisis communications — the mountain climbing association will soon be yours,” and later added, “You need to learn how to establish order, how to control the old fogeys, how to manage relationships and to utilise resources.”
Another leaked message between university administrators proved to be equally damning, discussing how to manage the crisis from a public relations standpoint. The writer of the message (it is unclear who), opined that since Anhui was a province that supplied many of the good students that came to Fudan, it was incumbent upon the university to send more faculty and department heads to Anhui so that “people can see our sincerity”. He/She added, “From this incident, we can see how Fudan has lost its ability to manage the media. I suggest that our journalism students are sent to other papers like Xinmin Evening Daily and Shanghai Morning Post, instead of concentrating all of our resources on party papers like Wenhui Daily and Jiefang Daily. The newspaper friendliest to Fudan so far has been the Oriental Morning Post and that article was written by an alumnus.”
In a possibly related development, a journalism postgraduate plunged eight floors to his death last night at around 9pm at Fudan’s Handan campus. Unconfirmed rumours have it that the student, who remains unnamed in press reports, was one of the 18 mountain climbers.
According to Shanghai Daily, the mountain climbers have since launched a microblog on Sina Weibo (which Shanghaiist has been unable to find), taking full responsibility for the death of Zhang Ninghai and apologising unreservedly to his family members and the rescuers.
Fudan’s page on Sina Weibo has turned black and white to mourn the spate of recent tragedies, and pictures posted from the liveblog of this morning’s ceremony were all in black and white. Weibo users have remained unimpressed, and comments left on the page have been mostly critical of the university, dismissing the ceremony as nothing more than the public relations exercise they had planned to execute.
Back in Anhui, Zhang Ninghai has been hailed by the Provincial Department of Civil Affairs as a “revolutionary martyr”, posthumously recognised by the party as a CCP member, and awarded the Anhui May Fourth Medal by the local Communist Youth League.