Protest Over Unpaid Quake Funds

Earthquake victims say Chinese authorities have reneged on their promise of subsidies.
2011-11-09
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A Chinese woman mourns for family members who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, May 12, 2010.
AFP

Victims of the devastating 2008 earthquake in China's southwestern Sichuan province say local officials have failed to hand out crucial subsidies to local people in spite of promises from leaders in Beijing.

Around 200 quake victims took to the streets of Suining city's Chuanshan district on Tuesday, marching to the local government office to complain, residents said on Wednesday.

"We began our action yesterday at 9:00 a.m.," said spokeswoman Luo Feixia. "More than 300 people went to the complaints office."

Luo said many of the people in her village had been left without government assistance since their farmland was cleared away in the relief effort.

"Ever since the military cleared away our land we have had no subsidies," she said. "They are supposed to give us 90 yuan a month as a subsidy for living expenses."

Luo said the villagers had received no assistance funds for nine months.

"All of us went to the city government to ask for the money from them, the money we need to exist on," she said.

"They gave us some document promising to pay up within the next five days but we don't know yet if this will work."

Failure to pay

According to the Sichuan-based rights website Tianwang64, the protesters say local authorities have failed to implement reconstruction promises made by President Hu Jintao on national television.

The government says it has poured 787.1 billion yuan (U.S $120 billion) in reconstruction funds into the region since the devastating earthquake killed more than 80,000 people on May 12, 2008.

But the protesters say that they have received only 30 yuan (U.S. $4.73) in subsidies, instead of 10 yuan (U.S. $1.57) per person, per day for the three-year reconstruction period.

Luo's village was surrounded by water after the local river was blocked up by landslides triggered by the earthquake, forming a huge lake.

"When Tangjia mountain blocked up the lake, we were stuck in the middle of the water for around two weeks," she said.

"Our entire village was surrounded by water, and all they gave us was 30 yuan."

Luo said villagers suspect that many of the relief food supplies have been sold off by local officials.

An official who answered the phone at the Suining municipal government complaints office said the matter had been resolved.

"It has all been dealt with," the official said. "It was dealt with on [Tuesday]."

Asked to confirm the details of the subsidy arrangements, the official said: "You had better ask the Chuanshan district government."

Calls to the local government went unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.

Underpaid in Sichuan

Meanwhile, in Sichuan's Mianzhu county, bereaved parent Sang Jun said local people's subsidies have also now been cut off.

"They are now forcing our relatives to take part in various community activities like acting as night-watchmen and sweeping the streets," he said.

"They are supposed to give us 1,650 yuan (U.S. $260) every three months: that's 550 yuan (U.S. $87) a month," Sang said. "They were supposed to give it to us for three years, but they only gave us three months' worth."

He said local people have taken part in road-building and other reconstruction work, but have yet to receive some of the funds allocated for the projects.

"They underpaid us," he said. "There is still some money owed to us ... three years later."

High-ranking officials visited petitioners in the worst-hit counties of Beichuan and Wenchuan in September, after local people had campaigned for years to be given new homes.

Deputy governor Wei Hong had pledged that all reconstruction work would be finished by the end of September.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.