A bird flies over The Forbidden City after a heavy snow-fall in Beijing on Nov. 4, 2012. In the early morning on Nov. 4, Beijing’s Weather Bureau issued their most severe weather warning. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)
By Ariel Tian
A blizzard swept through northeastern China on Nov. 4, shutting down transportation in Beijing just before the opening of the 18th Party Congress. The unexpectedly early snow storm was commented on heavily, with Internet users drawing a connection between the inclement weather and the Chinese Communist Party’s upcoming political meeting.
In the early morning on Nov. 4, Beijing’s Weather Bureau issued their most severe weather warning, a red alert, for the western and northern parts of the city and a second most severe warning, an orange alert, for the entire city, reported the state-run China Daily.
Official media reported storm related deaths and destruction in Beijing and other areas of northeast China. Tourists were trapped by the snow near the Great Wall, with three Japanese tourists dying there. The blizzard affected the power supply to 36 thousand residents in Beijing, reported Southern Metropolis Daily. The severe winds accompanying the blizzard uprooted large willow trees in the Chaoyang District of Beijing.
China’s transportation bureau is working overtime to restore transportation to the freeways, trains and airports mired in snow. Travelers were stranded for 12 hours on a section of the Beijing-Tibet expressway, waiting for the highway to be cleared, said Xinhua.
Due to the severity of the blizzard, 10 highways were partially closed across several provinces, with 12 expressways entirely shut down, according to the China News Agency.
The report added that flights at Beijing Capital International Airport were severely interrupted, with at least 38 flights canceled. According to Beijing West Railway’s official microblog, the severe blizzard resulted in the suspension of nine train routes.
The chief weather forecaster in Beijing commented that this amount of downfall surpasses all historic records for the colder part of the year, which lasts from November to March. Residents are amazed at the amount of snow, too. “I am 83 years old and I have never seen such a large blizzard, with snow up to my knees,” said Ms. Zhou, a life-long resident in Yanqing County, Beijing.
Linking Blizzard to Congress
Weibo, China’s social media, hummed with netizens searching on the terms “snow” and “18th Congress,” making a connection between the two events.
Searches on Nov. 5 yielded 50 pages of results, most of them censored except for the first page of content.
“Such a severe snow storm, is it related to the 18th National Congress?” asked netizen “Duke Yangqi.” Guangdong netizen “Kathy Yihui” commented, “Such an early snow to welcome Sparta,” using the word Sparta to avoid censorship, as it has the same pronunciation as “18th Congress” in Chinese. “It is a sign of a storm beneath the surface … they are being blamed by both the heavens and the people!”
Some Weibo users are concerned with the price of the Congess, both in human and monetary costs.
“Those policemen guarding the 18th Congress and the 1.4 million volunteers still need to patrol, no matter what weather it is,” observed “Lao Xu Shi Ping.” “[The Party] guards against their own people … poor guys in such a cold weather,” replied another netizen.
Other irate netizens are calling for the government to spend half the cost of maintaining security for the 18th Congress to assist Chinese people who have suffered in the snow disaster, an article in Secret China said on Monday.