After salt rush, Chinese stay calm in shadow of Japan's nuclear accident

10:22, March 30, 2011      

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As the sky became clear enough to let in sunshine at the moist season, Wang Ding, a retiree living in the south China city of Guangzhou, did not miss the opportunity to take a walk, despite reports that radioactive material had been detected in the air above the city.

"I'm not scared, because I've learned from media reports that the amount of radiation is very small and experts say no protective measures are needed," Wang told Xinhua while strolling at the People's Park in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province.

On Monday, China's National Nuclear Emergency Coordination Committee announced that "extremely low levels" of radioactive isotope iodine-131from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan were found in some southern and eastern Chinese regions. However, the agency said that the radioactive material would not harm public health or the environment.

The news did not cause disturbance in the lives of Guangzhou residents.

At 8 a.m., more than 100 residents were waiting in long queues for the opening of a vegetable market operated by Carrefour.

"We didn't expect so many buyers. We thought that the news about the radiation would make people stay at home," said Zhou Li, a regional manager with Carrefour.

A clerk at a drugstore in downtown Guangzhou said that no one came to purchase respirators on Tuesday morning. "Nobody even asked about respirators," the merchant said.

Residents in the eastern Jiangsu and Anhui provinces as well as the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where traces of nuclear radiation were reported, were not worried either.


The rational demeanor of Chinese citizens is in sharp contrast to their behavior just two weeks ago.

In mid-March, panicking shoppers in many parts of China rushed to buy iodized salt due to rumors that iodine in salt could protect against radiation and fears that seawaters that produce salt would become contaminated due to radiation.

However, the salt rush was reigned in after environmental authorities clarified the rumors. China National Salt Industry Corp., the country's largest salt supplier, also guaranteed ample salt supplies.

"Now, everything is normal. We should not scare ourselves again since the panic-buying of salt was a good lesson," said Yang Rui, a resident in Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu Province.

"The panic-buying proved to be in vain and many people became laughing stocks," said Mao Wenjun, who was on a business trip in Guangdong's Shenzhen City. "People might be stupid for the first time, but not a second or a third time."

Mao said he learned from newspaper reports that the nuclear radiation would only jeopardize people's health when it exceeded a certain amount.

"As long as the government makes public the information in a timely manner, we won't lose our senses and do things like panic-buying again," he added.

Wang Hongwei, an associate professor with the College of Public Administration under the Renmin University of China, praised the Chinese government's transparent and active approach to releasing information regarding the nuclear leak accident in Japan.

"After the salt-buying farce, the public has become more rational, which will help counter the excessive fear caused by the spread of nuclear radiation," Wang said.

Source: Xinhua
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