Quake Teacher Detained

Chinese police detain a teacher who openly criticized the construction of schools that collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake.

2008.06.28

HONG KONG—Police in Sichuan have detained a middle-school teacher who openly criticized the construction of school buildings that collapsed in large numbers during the devastating May 12 earthquake.

Liu Shaokun, who teaches middle school in Deyang city and had been doing volunteer aid work since the quake, was taken into custody late June 25, according to a friend who asked to be identified as Ms. Xian.

“He disappeared suddenly, so his wife called the police, and they told her that her husband was detained,” Xian said.

“He is accused of spreading rumors and instigating parents to negotiate with the government—sort of disturbing the social order. He isn’t allowed to see his family, but they can send him clothing,” she said.

“He is a volunteer. He brought his camera and went to many places after the earthquake. He took many pictures and posted them on the Web. He is a teacher and angry that the government didn't pay more for the relief effort, so even more students died. He was just expressing his anger. Not just him, many school parents are very angry too.”

An officer on duty at the Deyang police station said, “We are not aware of this,” and declined further comment.

Broadcast interview

Before his detention, Liu criticized the construction of collapsed schools in an interview with RFA’s Cantonese service.

“The collapsed schools were really almost made of leftover tofu,” Liu said in the interview last week, suggesting that the buildings were flimsy. “They took away so many innocent children. Who isn’t in pain? Everyone is pained by this.”

One parent who asked not to be named regretted Liu’s detention.

“Very sad—it’s normal that the teacher wants justice for his students. He shouldn’t have been detained. We don’t have any power, just empty hands. If you oppose the government, you’re always considered in the wrong,” the parent said.

Xian didn't name the school where Liu taught. But at least three schools are known to have collapsed in the area, killing more than 500 students.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake on May 12 killed more than 70,000 people, including thousands of children at their desks in what many parents believe were shoddily made school buildings. Authorities have clamped down in recent weeks on protests and memorials by angry parents.

Original Gai Lai See for RFA's Cantonese service. Service director: Shiny Li. Produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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