16 December 2017

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06/23/2008 CHINA

The many untruths about collapse of dormitory on 300 students in Sichuan

The parents of the almost 9,000 students buried by the earthquake beneath the schools ask to know the truth, but the local authorities don't want to provide clear answers. Meanwhile, Beijing says that fighting corruption is essential for the future of the party, but is not talking about investigations of the collapsed schools.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Building "sturdier, safer, and more secure" schools and hospitals is the promise of Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao, on a visit today to the earthquake-stricken areas.  But meanwhile, the state does not seem to be truly seeking the truth about the schools that collapsed on thousands of students.

In the secondary school of Muyu, in the mountainous county of Qingchuan, a three-story dormitory collapsed, burying the students during their afternoon nap.  Their parents, who have gone there every day since May 12 to remember their children, protest that the building had only two exits, and one was closed at the moment of the earthquake, and also that the building - a former factory built about 40 years ago - was not earthquake-resistant: made of brick and prefabricated panels, without concrete-reinforced support beams, it collapsed on itself.  But on June 9, a letter from the earthquake central command of Qinchuan announced that the investigations had been ended, that "the dormitory was not dangerous", and that "both doors were open at the moment of the earthquake".

Too bad that the local sources recount that the main door was closed, that the student Hou Bin (who, it seems, will never be found) had run to open it, that 40-50 people were standing in front of it without being able to leave, and that the compactness of the crowd prevented many from being able to get out in the short time before the collapse.  Too bad that Tang Shufa found amid the wreckage, while he was fruitlessly looking for his 14-year-old son, an official document dated February 24, 2006, explaining that the building was not safe and that it had to be demolished.  But the school - the document continues - "which is a million yuan in debt, really cannot afford these reconstruction costs".  Even if now, a group of investigators has said that the dormitory was not included among the buildings indicated as dangerous in the report.

Li Haosheng, the county's communist party secretary, has refused to meet with the parents, who have gathered as a group at least 10 times outside of his office.  Now, the communist party is offering parents more than 10,000 yuan (1,000 euros) for each dead child, and is calling upon them to refrain from making petitions to the higher authorities.

"The aim of our campaign is not money. We want justice. We want an answer", Tang insists. "I graduated from this school in 1989, and even then we noticed the deterioration of the brick walls".

More than a month later, even the number of victims has not been finalised: the authorities say 287 students were killed, but the parents say at least 300 were. There is still uncertainty over the number of missing, which today has risen to 18,522 in the official count, 1,125 more than before, after claims by the anguished relatives of migrant workers in the area of the earthquake.

Today, an official report of the communist party indicates that the fight against corruption is essential for the survival of the party itself, and announces stricter controls, especially on local officials.  Meanwhile, the parents in Muyu are talking about corruption: Since 1996, they had been promised a new school, and they are asking where the funds set aside for this have gone.  They ask that this be the starting point for a new fight against corruption.

See also

07/07/2008 CHINA
Children killed by Party corruption, more than by the earthquake
Local officials embezzled more than 85% of the funds destined for school construction. Construction companies, forced to work for much less money than expected, "saved" on materials. The results of an initial investigation.

21/04/2009 CHINA
Sichuan earthquake: another suicide, risk is high that many will imitate him
A political official from Beichuan has killed himself, devastated over the death of his 8-year-old son and overwhelmed by his rebuilding responsibilities. Experts: many could commit suicide at the anniversary.

19/06/2008 CHINA
Beijing says earthquake will make Chinese economy grow
Government experts maintain that the work of reconstruction will have positive effects on the economy. Meanwhile, Beijing is arresting anti-corruption activists, is not responding to the parents of students who died beneath the schools, and is lodging accusations against donor companies. The "strange" management of the post-earthquake situation.

05/06/2008 CHINA
Police guard collapsed schools to prevent parents' protests
Almost one month after the earthquake, no one can explain why so many schools collapsed, while the parents of the students who died say they were constructed poorly. Now the police are breaking up their gatherings, and driving away the journalists. But one parent warns: "We are not afraid, we have already lost everything".

06/06/2008 CHINA
Earthquake: with emergency over, "normal" censorship may be returning
The government announces "limits" on the number of journalists, and criticises those who pose "harmful questions" to survivors. Curbs on websites that talk about collapsed schools or delays in aid. Experts: it will not be possible to wipe out this new experience of complete, live information.

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