2008年6月19日 星期四

China Stifles Complaints 四川地震遇難學生家長上訪受阻

China Stifles Complaints

Local Chinese officials are stepping up attempts to stifle complaints from parents whose children died in collapsed schools in last month's earthquake, even as authorities reiterate pledges to determine why many schools fell -- and prosecute any wrongdoing in their construction.

Officials in this wrecked coal-mining town are barring parents from traveling to see more senior officials about their complaints. Officials have prevented foreign reporters from accessing areas where schools collapsed, including this town northwest of the provincial capital Chengdu, and stopped parents from speaking with reporters elsewhere, and in some cases have threatened parents trying to voice their anger. Parents said they are frustrated with the pace of investigations into why many schools became deathtraps in the earthquake.

Parents of Xianger teenagers killed when the local middle school collapsed tried to board buses on both June 12 and June 13 to seek answers from government officials in Dujiangyan, a bigger city in the quake area. They were ordered off the vehicles by local Communist Party officials and police officers, several parents said Tuesday.

'We want an explanation,' says He Jiyun, whose 15-year-old daughter, Pan Ting, died in the Xianger Middle School. More than 300 students were killed in the school's collapse, more than triple the number killed throughout the rest of the town, residents say. The cause 'must be the building quality,' says Ms. He.

The deaths of thousands of students in what the government says was about 7,000 destroyed classrooms and dormitory rooms is proving the most politically sensitive aspect of the earthquake that hit Sichuan May 12.

China's central government promises parents will ultimately get answers, and few of them seem to doubt the sincerity of Beijing's pledge. But they are worried about the length of the process, when parents, teachers and students at several schools said there is ample evidence that shoddy construction, and sometimes corruption, were to blame.

Officials in some Sichuan schools have pledged to update parents on the investigations. Such briefings have sometimes disappointed parents because officials have used them to make offers of compensation and ask for more time -- noting the government faces a massive and complex challenge to address the needs of the millions of survivors.

'You should be confident that the provincial government will work out a plan for you and I'm sure it will be a good plan,' Deyang City Vice Mayor Zhang Jianming told parents in the town of Mianzhu on Sunday. He asked parents of students killed in Dongqi Middle School to stop gathering publicly and instead file complaints with the correct government office.

In some cases, Chinese officials have directed thinly veiled threats at parents. In a letter sent to parents of at least two Sichuan schools this month, authorities warned that foreign agents, including members of an outlawed spiritual sect called Falun Gong, are manipulating the situation to damage China's credibility and ruin the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.

'Currently a small number of people with ulterior motives, including some Falun Gong followers and some malfeasant persons from home or abroad, are attempting to use your sadness to foster a big story,' said the June 8 letter, distributed by officials to parents of victims at Dongqi Middle School. It urged them not to 'lose their wits' and offers a reminder that disturbing social order is unlawful.

Human Rights in China, an activist group based in New York, said Tuesday that late last week, authorities detained a political activist named Huang Qi, based in Chengdu, on suspicion of illegally possessing state secrets following his visits to the quake zone. In a statement, the group said it learned of the detention from Mr. Huang's relatives. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Huang said he had met with parents of Dongqi Middle School victims.

Local authorities also are reneging on Beijing's pledges that foreign journalists can freely report from affected areas of Sichuan. During the past week, police forbade a Wall Street Journal reporter from entering neighborhoods around four collapsed schools, and directed him to leave three such towns, including Xianger.

In Chengdu last week, Wang Guoqing, deputy director of China's State Council Information Office and one of the central government's top spokesmen, sought out a Journal reporter to say he was so troubled to learn journalists were being denied access that he had flown to Sichuan to help. Mr. Wang said anyone who blocked reporters didn't know the policy and promised to 'resolve it.'

Meanwhile, in the quake-hit town of Wufu, officials make daily visits to parents of students who died in the local Fuxin No. 2 Primary School to request that they stay home. Still, Xiong Yonghao, one of those visited, joins several other parents to defy the request and arrives every day at the flattened school at 8 a.m., the hour when their children used to start classes.

At the edge of the little town, banners say Wufu is in 'deep mourning.' Police block outsiders from getting near the school.

Mr. Xiong, interviewed in a car parked outside Wufu, said the parents have a simple request: 'a thorough investigation' of the school from the time it was built till today, 'and anyone who should be held responsible is held responsible.'











James T. Areddy




總 部位於紐約的中國人權(Human Rights in China)週二表示﹐上週末﹐有關部門拘留了位於成都的政治活動人士黃琦﹐理由是他涉嫌在前往震區後非法掌握國家機密。該組織在聲明中表示﹐是從黃琦的 親屬那裡獲知這一消息的。在近日接受《華爾街日報》採訪時﹐黃琦表示他曾與東汽中學遇難學生家長會面。