BEIJING – China's official news agency has set up a memorial Web site for a pilot killed in an April 1 collision with a U.S. spy plane, letting visitors offer online versions of traditional Chinese funerary gifts of wine, flowers or songs.
The Web site is part of a campaign to put Wang's death to patriotic use. Wang's hometown held a weekend rally to celebrate the heroism of the pilot who has been declared a "revolutionary martyr," and the army and paramilitary police vowed to make him their role model.
The Chinese military called off its search for Wang on Saturday, 13 days after the collision with the U.S. spy plane. China held the 24-member spy plane crew for more than 11 days after their emergency landing on the island of Hainan, and some Chinese have expressed anger that the crew was eventually released.
Netor, a Beijing company that sells memorial Web sites, set up the "Martyr Wang Wei's Internet Memorial" in cooperation with the country's official Xinhua News Agency, said Liu Yuhui, a Netor employee. By Monday, a day after the site opened, about 20,000 people had visited to offer words of condolence, light an online "candle" or make virtual offerings of yellow daisies, white lilies or orchids, songs, wine or incense, Liu said.
Visitors saluted Wang, calling him the hero of their hearts and saying the Chinese people will always remember him.
Meanwhile, state-run media ran eulogies for the man China's Navy named a "revolutionary martyr."
"Wang Wei's heroic deeds are the most moving, most real and most inspiring to us," the military's main newspaper, the Liberation Army Daily, said Monday.
Xinhua reported that Communist Party officials and villagers in Wang's hometown of Huzhou, a small town in eastern China's Zhejiang province, were determined to learn from Wang's "patriotic spirit" and to turn "tragedy into strength."
In response to calls from the public for harsher measures against the crew of the U.S. spy plane, Chinese leaders have stressed that they still blame the U.S. pilot for the collision. They say Beijing will demand an end to U.S. surveillance flights near its coast in talks about the cause of the incident due to begin Wednesday.
U.S. officials have presented accounts of the collision that say Wang was to blame. Chinese officials have rejected that version and reiterated their insistence that the U.S. aircraft veered into and rammed Wang's fighter, sending it plunging into the sea.
Also Monday, the newspaper Guangming Daily reported that college professors supported the official handling of the collision and had vowed to "work and study harder, condense their efforts and strengthen the nation." The newspaper is published by the Communist Party and its article might be meant to head off student protests.