China will no longer classify as state secrets the death tolls from natural disasters, the government announced this week. “Declassification of these figures and materials is conducive to boosting our disaster prevention and relief work,” said Shen Yongshe of the National Administration of State Secrets. In the past, Chinese news organizations could not report on deaths while a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood was unfolding. Instead, they had to wait until the government released an official body count, which often understated casualties. The new policy does not cover industrial accidents such as mine cave-ins.
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