Ai Weiwei’s Project: School Principal Refuses to Release Names of Students Killed

In this blog post, Ai Weiwei transcribes a conversation between a school principal at Fuxin Elementary School in Mianzhu, Sichuan and a volunteer recording the names of the dead students. Throughout the argument, the principal insisted that, although it was a worthy cause, the volunteers would need official government permission in order to receive the list of names and family contact information of the deceased.  Although the volunteer repeatedly tries to refute the need for official permission, the principal keeps stating that office procedure requires it.  The argument ends with the volunteer emphasizing that he just wants the truth; the principal replies that the government has already announced the truth, and listing the names of the deceased is not required. 

See past posts on “The Numbers.”

A rough translation of the conversation:

校长:如果你们要到学校了解关于遇难学生的名单以及情况,我们需要你们出示一个关于教育局下来的(不允许录音!)联系函,任何团体,包括我们现在学校的志愿者教师,他都是有教育局和学校联系过来的。

Principal: If you want the list of names, you need to have official permission. (No recording allowed here!)

志愿者:我们只有通过找到遇难学生的名单,还有他们的家长,可能通过这些名单就可以给他们提供帮助。

Volunteer: We just have to find the names of the students who perished, and their parents; maybe through this list of names we can assist them.

校长:这样吧,因为学校在遇难学生家属这块,政府和教育局在具体的安排, 解决这一块。政府呢,也为我们学生家属上面已经解决了很多问题,如果说你们下来要调查,要了解什么 问题,我们需要教育局有一个正式的东西,必须要见到教育局签批的一个文件,我们才能够配合你们的工作,现在这样一项工作上,政府确实花了很大力气,作为不管是党中央也好,还是地方政府也好,作为学校这一方面,我们已经感觉到政府在这个上面解决的力度,应该说是前所未有的力度,所以说,作为民间组织要支助也好,帮助也好,希望你们组织有一个正式的联系函,到学校,这样我们才能配合你们展开工作。

Principal: The government and Education Bureau have specific procedures. The families have already settled with the government; to research this information, you need formal authorization from the government.  We feel that the government is already on top of the problem, with unprecedented vigor. So with regards to this volunteer organization, although it would help, we still need an official letter to work with you.

志愿者:像您说的国家,政府给予政策我们是不怀疑的,但问题是,我希望通过我们自己的力量为灾区做一点事情。

Volunteer: We don’t doubt that there is a government policy, as you say, but the problem is that we want to make some contribution by our own efforts.

校长:作为政府来讲,也是欢迎我们社会各界团体,为我们这样一些伤残学生啊 ,或者遇难学生家属啊,给予帮助,在这一块上,我们要有正规的途径来完成,你们的帮助也需要我们社会来共同关注,你们做了什么,社会也必须要知道,如果说你们这个组织只是跟下面的学校或者家长联系,他会阻碍你们这个组织在社会上扩大影响。我们需要一个正式的联系函。

Principal: You need to go through formal channels, and society must know what you’re doing… We need an official letter from the government allowing this.

志愿者:我觉得校长的逻辑,让我有点奇怪,我认为只要是帮助就很好,为什么要用一纸公函来拒绝我们对灾区的帮助呢?

Volunteer: Your logic is a little strange. I think that to help is great, why would I need an official letter to help?

校长: 我们没有拒绝,也没有说逻辑有问题,这是工作的程序问题。

Principal: We’re not refusing, this is just regular office procedure.

志愿者:那是否可以把学生的名字给我们?

Volunteer: Then, can you give us the name list?

校长:这肯定不可能,是不可以这样做的,因为作为遇难者家属,或遇难学生来讲,我们一切的要求和工作是要按政府和教育局的布置来完成的。

Principal: That’s impossible because the government and Education Bureau need to arrange things.

志愿者:到底是你们学校自己不透露名单,还是你们的上一级不允许公布名单的?

Volunteer: So your school will not release the names or permit to have the names published, or you are ordered not to by higher authorities?

校长:这请你搞清楚,这不是学校不肯透露,也不是上一级不肯公布,我们该向哪个地方公布的,交代的,我们都按照要求公布了,交代了。

Principal: Its not that the school is not agreeing to release this information, nor was the order from above. We have publicized and accounted for the information as requested. 

志愿者:要求?是哪个要求?到底是学生还是学生家长的要求?

Volunteer: Request? Is this from the parents?

校长:请你注意这是学校的工作程序。

Principal: These are the school’s procedures.

志愿者:那学校的工作程序又是按照哪一个的要求去做的?

Volunteer: School procedures are done according to what requests? 

校长:这没有按照那一级的要求去做,请你记清楚这是学校的工作程序!

Principal: These are just procedures.

志愿者:可是学校的工作程序就是应该把死难者的名单公布。

Volunteer: But school work procedures should publish a list of the dead.

校长:请两位同志注意,没有社会要求我们学校必须要向社会公布遇难学生的名单,请两位同志注意,这件事情学校没有办法配合你们去做,你们要了解这些,就必须要出示公函!

Principal: We can’t release the list without an official letter.

志愿者:我们会去找到公函给你的!

Volunteer: We can go and find this official permission!

校长:那等你们找到公函再联系

Principal: We’ll wait for you.

志愿者:好! 那请问你叫什么名字?

Volunteer: Ok. What’s your name?

校长:你问我叫什么名字,有什么意思嘛?

Principal: What does that mean?

志愿者:作为一个校长,您是否应该……

校长:这是学校的程序!

(被请出校长办公室,在办公室门外,遇到一些遇难学生家属)

Principal: This is school procedure! (We were out of the office. Outside the office door were family members of the deceased.)

志愿者:我觉得不必要有这么多遮隐的地方,你对这个事情太紧张了,这不是一个校长应有的态度!这是每一个公民的义务,我们只是希望找到真相!

Volunteer: There are too many secrets, this isn’t a proper attitude for a principal! This is every citizen’s obligation ,we just are trying to find the truth!

校长:真相! 政府早都已经向全社会公布了。

Principal: The government has already announced the truth.

志愿者:可是我们没有得到任何名字。

Volunteer: But we never received any names.

校长:怎么没有得到呢?这个名单,政府中央已经向社会都公布了真相!

Principal: But the government has already announced the truth!

Read also: Southern Metropolis News on the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project on CDT.

May 2, 2009 11:13 AM
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