Southern Metropolis News on the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project (Updated)

On April 15th, The Southern Metropolis News published an editorial. Artist and blogger Ai Weiwei reposted on his blog (roughly translated; original Chinese post follows):

On April 13th, the State Department News Office published the “National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010)”, promising to ensure citizens’ rights and political rights, including personal rights, prisoners’ rights, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion and belief, the right to participate and to voice an opinion. At the same time, it guarantees the media’s rights to collect information, criticize, discuss, and publish.  It also guarantees the rights of the citizens of Wenchuan in the Sichuan disaster area to create and publish a list of the victims of the earthquake, those that have been killed and those that have gone missing.

Based on the standards of the country’s human rights plan, it doesn’t allow anyone to hide the names of those that are dead or missing.  It encourages local governments to share information, to avoid duplicating efforts.  The names must be thoroughly investigated; access to this list and the right to circulate it is part of everyone’s human rights.

The list is not yet complete, but it is a part of everyone’s national heritage.  The government office stressed that detailed information should be gathered, including name, hometown, and place of death.  It is a very detailed procedure and must be completed and published in stages.  It is an enormous project, and will include lessons learned from this disaster, especially on the first anniversary of the earthquake.  Regarding the names of the students that were killed, these should be published as quickly as possible, because this is a way of reconstructing both the disaster area as well as help our society heal.

Volunteers have been compiling these names using the internet and published news reports and by phoning and visiting government offices and the families of the victims.  The government must respect and accept these  social organizations and volunteer groups that involve themselves in this project and not reject them.

The creation of this public list of the victims, including their sex, age, native place, identity status, etc., really isn’t in order to fight for a right; it is simply refusing to ignore and forget this disaster’s anniversary. A person’s name reflects his or her human rights; a name is a person’s joys and sorrows, and a fragment of his or her history. From this, it reveals the lives that were destroyed on May 5th, and comforts the survivors, those whose wounds will never heal.   Through assisting in this project, the earthquake cannot rob the victims, because the names remain a witness to the victims’ lives.

以国家人权计划为衡量标准,任何将遇难者和失踪者名单作为秘密的举动都是不可理喻的,更违背这一人权行动计划所象征的民众要求。人权计划出台后,为了减少重复劳动,震区的地方政府,应公开已经掌握的名单,并彻查遗漏的姓名。而这些人权名单属于所有民众,可以被自由查阅、获取和传播,也同样可以被自由地查漏补缺。

尽管目前仍然残缺不全,但震亡者与失踪者名录是四川地震留给全体国民的遗产。政府部门曾经强调要对遇难人员进行详细核实核查,收集姓名、籍贯、遇难地点等基本信息,因此会是一个非常复杂的程序,必须分期分批公布,核实一批公布一批。应该承认,核实遇难者名单是一项庞大的工程,甚至会涉及遇难经验教训总结问题,因此在四川地震一周年祭将至之时,公众对于尽快公布遇难者包括遇难学生名单怀有热切的期待,因为这也是灾区重建工程的一部分,是我们公民社会自我治愈的一个程序。

事实上,最近一段时间以来,已有一些志愿者在四川自发地整理地震中遇难的学生名单,他们通过网络搜索引擎谷歌、百度提供的无数链接以及公开新闻报道,以电话或亲自拜会当地相关政府部门、遇难者亲属等咨询方式,搜集和整理相关的信息。这既是对政府部门主动行使职守去厘清谜团的压力,更是为落实人权行动计划相关承诺提供巨大动力。尊重接纳社会组织或志愿者团体介入名单的搜集、整理和发布等,而不是以狐疑或排斥的态度看待这些公民以及团队的自发努力,将是落实公民权利法案的最好见证。

强调建立并公开震亡者名单,详实登记他们的性别、年龄、籍贯、身份等,并非为了争取什么权利,只是为了抵制无时不在的遗忘,实现更庄重的纪念。名字体现人权,名字就是悲欢离合,展现往昔的生活片断。由此,呈现他们生前的笑脸,察见那些已然破碎在五月的梦想,抚慰那些永远不能愈合的伤痛。在名单的帮助下,地震就不可能真的夺走那些同胞,因为他们留下了一世为人的凭据。

See also past CDT posts on Ai Weiwei and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.

Also see this post on the barriers that Ai Weiwei faces in his own efforts to publish the names of quake victims.

Update: China Media Project translates an article by Ai Xiaoming about her friendship with Tan Zuoren, who has been arrested for his work documenting the collapsed schools which killed so many children in the earthquake:

Earlier this week, Guangzhou scholar and 2009 CMP fellow Ai Xiaoming wrote movingly on her Weblog about her friendship with Tan Zuoren, whom she met on a trip to the earthquake zone last year.

In her article, which has been removed from a number of sites and forums, Ai appealed to police at the detention center where Tan is being held to treat him humanely. She also offered excerpts of a construction quality report on Beichuan High School conducted more than two years before the quake, which points to problems with both materials and personnel.

Responding to the charges of “subversion of state power” raised against Tan, Ai Xiaoming paints a portrait of him as a national hero, a kind of Lei Feng of China’s emerging civil society: “You take this kind of person and lock them away? And you say he ‘incited subversion of state power’?” she writes. “Who would believe that? Zuoren has done so much good for this country and its state power, even to the point of being a Lei Feng (雷锋). His only point of difference with Lei Feng is the fact that Zuoren is a man of independent thoughts and beliefs, and it is on these that he acts.”