With sympathy, grief and some outrage, Chinese netizens expressed their condolences over the deaths of two Chinese schoolgirls in Saturday's crash landing of an Asiana Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport.
Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both 16, are the sole casualties of the ill-fated flight carrying 307 passengers and crew. They were part of a group of 35 teachers and students from a middle school in the eastern Chinese city of Jiangshan traveling to California for a summer camp program.
The crash remained one of the top trending topics on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Monday, garnering over 1.7 million posts with the hashtag "Boeing 777 crash." It was also the leading topic on Tencent Weibo, with over 240,000 posts.
"May you rest in peace in Heaven. God will forever be with you," wrote user HaiDianYuAiLiSi, one of thousands of netizens who took to weibo platforms to express sadness over the loss of two promising young lives. Many attached photos of lit candles or appended their posts with candle icons in a symbolic vigil to honor the two girls.
"These kids were so young. Their families are so pitiful," wrote user JinShuRenDOuFuNao, echoing broad sympathy for the victims' parents. Some netizens also hit out at China's one-child policy for leaving the parents bereft of surviving children.
"Now that the child is gone, her parents' last hope is also gone. It's really heartbreaking. If they had two or three children, it would at least be a bit better for her parents," wrote user BianBaXianK.
An official apology posted by Asiana on Sina Weibo sparked a debate over the qualifications of the pilot, with rumors rapidly spreading among Sina Weibo users that the plane was flown by an "intern."
"Can an apology be exchanged for two lives? Asking interns to operate long-distance flights shows a complete disregard for human life. Even though tickets are cheap, you cannot treat people's lives like a joke," wrote user Kazumi Wawa.
Asiana has announced that while the pilot was making his first landing with a Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport, it was not his first time flying to San Francisco. He has clocked 43 hours flying a Boeing 777 and piloted a total of about 10,000 hours, the airline said.
As is often the case with social media, a handful of netizens displayed cavalier indifference to the victims, branding the girls overprivileged to be able to afford summer camp in the United States.
A user named Yellow Submarine, who identified himself as a classmate of the victims, rallied, saying the trip "was not a situation involving study abroad ambitions of wealthy people."
"Jiangshan is a third-tier city with relatively low consumption levels and my classmates' backgrounds was not as privileged as some netizens think," he added.
Chinese citizens comprised 141 of the 291 passengers onboard the flight.
Chinese president Xi Jinping expressed his condolences Sunday to all passengers and urged the Chinese Foreign Ministry as well as the Chinese consulates in San Francisco and South Korea to provide them with proper support, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Meanwhile, those watching from afar continue to express their sympathies. "Life is so fragile, lovely girls who quickly came and went" wrote user Sinjin. "You took with you your parents' hopes. How can your parents continue on?"