Quake Parents Plan March

They hope to win compensation from Chinese authorities for the loss of their loved ones.

A Chinese woman mourns for family members who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, May 12, 2010.

Parents whose children died in collapsed school buildings during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake said on Wednesday they would march to government buildings in the provincial capital to call for compensation over the loss of their children.

"We are planning to go to Chengdu tomorrow to demand from the authorities that they pay compensation to us from the schools' insurance,"  said Li Yan, a bereaved mother from the Sichuan township of Mianzhu, one of those worst-hit by the devastating quake.

"There will probably be more people than in the last protest ... perhaps around 1,000 people," she said.

She said the parents of some other Mianzhu schools had won compensation payments from the schools' insurance policies of 50,000 yuan following a long and bitter battle with officialdom.

"We heard that they had been awarded [compensation] over in Dujiangyan, and then we heard that Yingxiu had also got it," Li said. "Then there was Beichuan [county]. They had to make the same sort of fuss that we made before they were given it."

"They haven't replied to our demands yet."

Persistence pays off

Parents of thousands of schoolchildren killed in the earthquake have been harassed and detained by police after they tried to sue the government over allegations of shoddy construction in local schools, and lawyers across China were warned not to take any cases.

But Sichuan-based rights activist Huang Qi said the parents' persistence had paid off when they switched their campaign from demands for a public enquiry to economic compensation for the loss of their children.

"Recently in mainland China, we have seen that mass incidents on the part of ordinary people in second and third-tier cities and surrounding villages in pursuit of their rights have been spreading like a prairie fire," said Huang, who founded the Tianwang rights website.

"We hope that the Chinese Communist Party will find a way to change a whole range of its policies affecting rural communities," he said.

"[They should] allow the farmers to become the masters of their own land, and protect their most basic rights and interests in order to avoid the situation from worsening and spreading [out of control]."

Land grab protest

Elsewhere in Sichuan, local residents angry over land-grabs by their government blocked an airport expressway in Dazhou city on Tuesday,
eyewitnesses said.

"There were people who had blocked the road ... who were demanding money in compensation for their land which had been taken over by a property developer," said a resident of Heshi township surnamed Yin.

"I'd guess there were around 100-200 people, with about 300 bystanders."

Huang said such protests were common in the area. "The police ... told me that in reporting such incidents on the Internet, I was tarnishing the image of our country," he said.

He said large numbers of incidents like the one in Dazhou went unreported across China, "because of the lack of free flow of information."

China's top security official Zhou Yongkang warned earlier this month that the government will need ways to manage growing social unrest amid harder times for many ordinary Chinese.

Zhou said on Friday that the authorities need to improve their system of "social management," including increasing "community-level" manpower.

A rebellious stand-off by residents of the southern Guangdong village of Wukan this month was resolved when provincial officials led a team that negotiated with the villagers, who relinquished after winning a number of concessions.

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


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