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.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Corrupt officials embezzled more than 85% of the funds destined for school construction in Sichuan, including for the schools that collapsed like "tofu", crushing more than 9,000 students and professors. This is the result of the initial investigations of the National Audit Office, which yesterday explained that in 46 counties, out of 54 investigated, about 115 million yuan (11.5 million euros) destined for maintenance were misappropriated.
The office adds that similar "misappropriations" are not rare in school construction in rural areas, and speaks of 1.26 million yuan spent on cars for officials. Only 1.8% of the funds earmarked (918 million yuan, only 92 million euros) were definitely used for building maintenance.
Even if funds for education have been raised by the government from 53.6 billion to 156 billion yuan over the past three years, the report says that in 29 of the 54 counties, officials appropriated at least 300 million yuan from the commissioned projects, forcing the construction companies to operate at only 55% of the projected budget.
The earthquake on May 12 led to the collapse of more than 7,000 classrooms, while in many cases the surrounding buildings remained standing. The parents of the students immediately denounced the poor construction of the schools and called for investigations. The local authorities have sought to prevent these, while Beijing has promised maximum severity.
Li Shuisha, a researcher for the China National Institute for Educational Research, explains to the South China Morning Post that "rural primary and high schools have no decision-making power and can't charge for compulsory education. Their coffers are almost empty after the money is misappropriated by regional authorities". The construction companies are paid little and must limit their costs, in part by saving on materials.
23/06/2008 CHINAThe 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.
19/06/2008 CHINABeijing 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 CHINAPolice 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 CHINAEarthquake: 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.