Chinese Internet users are questioning their country's donation of school buses to the European country Macedonia, less than two weeks after an overcrowded school minivan crashed in China, killing 19 preschool students.
Last Friday, China presented the European nation with 23 school buses. By Monday, more than half a million online comments about the donation were posted to China's Weibo micro-blog service.
One common question: How could China donate brand-new school buses to another country when Chinese school children are subjected to shoddy and unsafe transportation conditions at home?
At Monday’s regular foreign ministry briefing in Beijing, spokesman Hong Lei referred to the aid to Macedonia as payback.
Hong said Macedonia overcame, in his words, “all kinds of difficulties,” to provide aid to China following the devastating 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. He said it is necessary for China to provide relevant assistance, to fulfill its international responsibilities.
The Macedonian government issued a statement saying each bus has 35 seats, meets all safety requirements and will be used for students primarily in rural areas.
The donation comes less than two weeks after 19 preschoolers died in Gansu province when the minivan they were riding to school crashed into a truck. Sixty-four people were crammed into the vehicle.
The accident once again highlighted the chronic under-funding of China's school systems. The issue also was under the spotlight following the 2008 earthquake, when more than 5,000 school children died in buildings activists say were shoddily constructed.
On Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao specifically promised new rules on school bus safety. He added that central and local governments will be financially responsible for bringing buses up to standard. The China Daily reports that 35 students were injured Saturday when a school bus carrying 39 people in Liaoning province rolled over.