Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Audra Ang, "China moves to quell protests in earthquake zone," Yahoo/AP, June 12, 2008.

...from Claus Schũnke

BEICHUAN COUNTY, China - Hundreds of grieving parents blocked the road into a flattened town Thursday as police sought to quell a rising wave of public anger over schools that collapsed in an earthquake a month ago and killed thousands of children.

Volunteers were detained, schools were cordoned off, and reporters were barred from the premises in at least two other towns in a sign of the government's resolve in controlling the media and potential unrest.

Despite assurances by authorities that unfettered coverage would be allowed, dozens of police and paramilitary troops guarded the gate of Juyuan's destroyed middle school as a crowd of about 50 gathered outside. Outside a primary school in Dujiangyan, police and soldiers also stood guard to keep out parents and journalists.

The security measures underscore how much the public fury over the deaths of so many children is unnerving Chinese authorities. Their attempts to rein it in contrast sharply with the relative openness Olympics-conscious Beijing displayed at the start of the disaster.

Read the rest of the Yahoo/AP article here =>


What's re-emerging is the general pre-earthquake mode, business as usual, which was responsible for the school problem - attention/funding/permission goes to those connected to those in charge.

The quake came at a wonderfully opportune time for Beijing - it shifted the world's short attention span from Tibet, and Beijing used this to the max by presenting themselves as responsible and caring - like us.

So now the schools are being put on hold by those whose responsibility they are. The central government is too weak and has to go through provincial/local leadership - all of the party. And now that Beijing is single-focusing on Beijing and Olympics again we're back to normal in the provinces, Sichuan in this case.

The blame for much of this earthquake destruction has to be put on the government. Never mind earthquake-proofing - there are official building inspectors who are supposed to inspect and approve (or not) buildings being constructed. They also are to check that things are ok and safe(emergency exits, etc.) once they're off and running. It's common knowledge that these inspectors can/must be bought. You have to be well-connected to get one of these jobs, because you're up for major money (to be shared with those who got you the job for that reason).That's how it has been working in the hinterland for a long time.

Example: In Urumqi/Xinjiang over 300 people fried to death in a disco. Poor design to begin with; emergency exits locked, stuff piled-up in passage ways, etc. The longest sentence was 7 years.

Keys in this article:

1. Chinese build their hopes and future (emotional and material) on their only child! All that gone!

2. And now they're seemingly not allowed to mourn on a specific traditional majormajor important day.

3. And many of these parents may have lost their home and jobs in the quake to begin with.

4. Even if money is made available eventually, there's no knowing if/how much of it will go where it was intended to go, because there are no NGOs, so the people handing it all out are the ones in charge of all and everything. Including building inspection.

I think all this is worthwhile getting into - like there seemed to be a sudden flowering of the iron bud, much applauded internationally - the bud is slamming shut again.

Back to stronger, faster, higher - in Beijing!

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