By Horace Lu
We told you yesterday about a school bus tragedy in Zhengning (正宁) County of Qingyang (庆阳) City in Western China’s Gansu province in which a minibus overcrowded with preschoolers crashed with a truck, killing 20 and injuring dozens.
Public anger is now rising over the incident, which today topped the list of trending topics on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform.
Heads have begun to roll in the wake of the accident. Two vice county magistrates, the chief of the local educational bureau and the chief of the local traffic police have been suspended from post and under investigation.
Li Jun (李军), the kindergarten’s chairman of the board, and Fan Jungang (樊军刚), the truck driver, are also under criminal detention.
“The school bus has been overloaded for a long time, and has the watchdog not found that? It does not make any sense,” fumed a local party official at a press conference.
The kindergarten, called Little PhD (小博士), is the only one in the township. Three days ago, the school bus of the kindergarten was found to be severely overloaded by the local authority.
The Ministry of Education has urged a thorough safety check on school buses.
The tragedy in Gansu is the latest in a series of accidents on school transportation.
Seven school bus accidents have taken place in China so far this year, according to media reports, but the real number is suspected to be much higher.
In one case, several children even died in their school buses because teachers did not check the number of students and locked them inside by mistake.
The government’s lack of investment and attention has also been blamed.
Qingyang city, where the accident took place, has no investment in kindergartens and has to rely on private investment. Some business owners defy government regulations to make more profits, said a municipal official to China News Service, meanwhile media has reported about the extravagance of the municipal government.
The Chinese media has echoed public fury over the accident, calling for more government attention and regulation.
Yang Yu (杨禹), a CCTV commentator said on state television that the government should stop all unsafe or overloaded school buses, which “can be done immediately although it is impossible to provide enough safe school buses and management to all kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools overnight.”
Southern Metropolitan Daily said the government should pay for the school buses, which “is just a tiny fraction of the government’s huge sangong expenses” (三公消费), in a reference to taxpayers’ money spent on government vehicles, officials’ eating and drinking and reception costs.
China Youth Daily reports that Chinese government spent 80 billion yuan alone on the purchase of transportation vehicles last year.
Over 1.5 million tweets have been recorded discussing the tragedy on Sina Weibo. Most internet users agree that the government can well afford increased expenditure on school transport, while some have called for the use of American school buses for improved safety.
“I once saw a photo in which an American school bus collided with Hummer,” recalled businessman Zheng Yaqi. “The Hummer was almost destroyed, but the school bus was only slightly damaged. I am wondering when Chinese children can enjoy taking such safe school bus rides, eat completely safe food and breath unpolluted air.”