A train crash in Beijing, China between two high speed trains that killed 40 people and injured 192 others has exposed the Chinese government's efforts to censor and cover-up important facts about the crash. Only this time, the Chinese people fought back and exposed the truth: through blogs on the internet that the censors could not keep up with.
As reported in the New York Times (see link above), when two high speed trains crashed in Beijing, people started blogging about the facts within minutes of the crash. The reports by people on the scene, with knowledge of the facts, undercut and contradicted official reports by the government. In one reported instance, local authorities ordered lawyers not to represent victims of the train crash without government approval.
Fortunately for those who believe that governments should not lie to its people, the Chinese people took to the airwaves of the internet (its not really airwaves; some my remember the late Senator Ted Steven's description-those "tubes" that carry information) to reveal the facts as they were occurring. Chinese censors could not keep up with the internet traffic.
Imagine if our great country controlled the media, and ordered lawyers not to take cases where gross negligence killed scores of people. Imagine for a moment that in the hours after a train crash catastrophe, such as this one in China, local authorities buried the lead train in the accident and ordered lawyers to not represent victims of the crash-before any investigation was performed. Imagine that government authorities then blamed the weather and other technical reasons for the crash, as happened in the Beijing train crash, when at least one eyewitness saw one the trains in the moments before the crash being operated in a careless manner, with no unusual weather conditions. Is this an example Chinese tort reform?
Lawyers perform an important function in society in exposing unsafe practices by large corporate interests which pay millions of dollars for lobbyists, public relations companies, lawyers, and investigators, all in an effort to place profits above all else, including on occasion, safety. Through our legal system, lawyers have forced changes in the automobile industry leading to reduced traffic fatalities, with mandatory seat belts and air bags installed in all cars. Lawyers efforts have led to the manufacture of safer cars, safer planes and safer trains. Now if only China can catch up.