China: Grief Turns to Anger

In a previous post about China and the horrible earthquake, I wrote about parents who are crying after their children bodies.

I also wrote that when tears start to dry, time will come for anger and asking explanation.

Time came.

And people are really angry. It is very easy to understand.

Bereaved parents whose children were crushed to death in their classrooms during the earthquake in Sichuan province have turned mourning ceremonies into protest events in recent days, forcing officials to address a growing political backlash over shoddy construction of public schools.

Parents of the estimated 10,000 children who lost their lives in the quake have grown so enraged about collapsed schools that they have overcome their usual caution about confronting Communist Party officials.

Many say they are especially upset that some schools for poor students crumbled into rubble even though government offices and more elite schools not far away survived the quake largely intact.

A woman cries near rubble from the Juyuan Middle School, as family members mourn students killed when the building collapsed. Most of the 900 students in the building were killed as a result of the May 12 earthquake.
PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

On Tuesday, an informal gathering of parents in Dujiangyan to commemorate their children gave way to unbridled fury. One of the fathers in attendance, a quarry worker named Liu Lifu, grabbed the microphone and began calling for justice. His 15-year-old daughter, Liu Li, had died along with her entire class during a biology lesson.

“We demand that the government severely punish the killers who caused the collapse of the school building,” he shouted. “Please, everyone sign the petition so we can find out the truth.”

The crowd grew more agitated. Some parents said that local officials had known for years that the school was unsafe but refused to take action. Others recalled that two hours passed before rescue workers showed up; even then, they stopped working at 10pm the night of the earthquake and did not resume the search until 9am the next day.

Sharp confrontations between protesters and officials began over the weekend in several towns in northern Sichuan. Hundreds of parents whose children died at the Fuxin No. 2 Primary School in the city of Mianzhu staged an impromptu rally on Saturday.

The next day, the Communist Party’s top official in Mianzhu came out to talk with the parents and stop them from marching to Chengdu, the largest city in the region, where they sought to prevail on higher level authorities to investigate.

The local party boss, Jiang Guohua, dropped to his knees and pleaded with them to abandon the protest, but the parents shouted in his face and continued their march. Does he worry about any investigation?

Here his picture:

The protests threaten to undermine the government’s attempts to promote its response to the quake as effective and to highlight heroic rescue efforts by the People’s Liberation Army, which has dispatched 150,000 soldiers to the region.

Censors have blocked detailed reporting of the schools controversy from the state-run media, but a photo of Jiang kneeling before protesters has become a sensation on some Web forums, bringing national attention to the incident.

The police tried to intervene. During the ensuing struggle, the broken glass from the pictures of dead children left several parents bleeding:

The parents who lost their children at Juyuan Middle School say they have yet to hear from Dujiangyan officials.

A few parents said they had been approached by teachers and told they would be well-compensated for their loss — about US$4,500 per child — if they would stop their increasingly vociferous public campaign.

Can you believe it?

What is the price for a life?

What is the price for the death of your only one child?

They call “that” to be well compensated?

Parents want justice. Nothing more.

 

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