No Answers For Parents of China Quake Dead

Tania Branigan reports in the Guardian, via Khaleej Times Online:

Three months on, the government has made extraordinary strides in rebuilding a province where at least 70,000 died. Temporary homes and basic amenities have appeared with startling speed. Adults are back at business; children have returned to study. At the Olympic opening ceremony, a nine-year-old survivor, who saved several classmates, bore the Chinese flag alongside basketball player Yao Ming.

Yet behind the image of communal resilience lies an uglier story. The authorities are striving to aid millions of survivors. But they are also doing their best to silence angry families who want to know why so many schools collapsed when the buildings around them endured.

No one is speaking for these parents. Not the foreign protesters who have flagged up issues such as Tibet and religious freedom through demonstrations in Beijing. Not non-governmental organisations in Sichuan, which are painfully aware that supporting them would spell the end to their other work there. And not the handful of activists who tried, but earned themselves detention. Instead, parents are speaking for themselves, despite the harassment and threats that have dogged them over the past eight weeks. They have been dragged away from protests, prevented from travelling to Beijing to air their complaints, and warned against talking to foreign reporters.

“Now they do not even allow us to gather together,” one man told me. He had agreed to speak by telephone, despite his concern that the call might be monitored. “The officials asked us to be patient. They told us we need to support the Olympics, and after the Olympics they will sort this out. But we have been waiting for such a long time … I guess they hope that if the time is long enough we will just forget this.”

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