Edward Cody: In China, Deaths and Questions

From the Washington Post:

A nightmare has descended on this poor farming village, filling its muddy lanes and brick homes with dread. Despite official denials, the peasants here have concluded that two teenage girls who ventured to the big city to earn some money were sealed alive in their coffins and left to die unspeakable deaths…

For the last three months, Beixinzhuang’s angry farmers have been demanding answers from local officials. A lawyer who has filed suit on behalf of the families, Li Wusi, expressed suspicion that the girls were closed in their coffins before dying as officials rushed to cover up the fact that three of the five girls were under 16, the legal age for factory work.

The battle illustrates the frequent disconnect between Chinese citizens, particularly the poor, and the bureaucracy that controls their lives and, in this case, their deaths. President Hu Jintao has declared that restoring public trust in government improving governing capacity, in his often-repeated words — is one of his most pressing tasks, essential to maintaining the party’s monopoly on power. But in Beixinzhuang, villagers are skeptical.

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