Quake Parents Clash Over Memorial

Bereaved parents say authorities in Sichuan are preventing them from holding memorials for children who died in the massive May 12 earthquake.

Quake School 300 Residents of Shifang city, Sichuan, in the immediate aftermath of the 7.9-magnitude May 12 earthquake, trying to rescue trapped children and retrieve bodies at the Hongbai township primary school.

HONG KONGSix months after the devastating May 12 earthquake in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, the authorities are preventing parents of schoolchildren who died in collapsed school buildings from holding memorials, parents say.

A bereaved mother from Dujiangyan city, surnamed Wang, said some of the parents who lost children in the collapse of the Xinjian primary school wanted to go to the school site to burn spirit moneypaper offerings for the souls of the departedand light firecrackers to mark the six-month anniversary.

But the authorities have tightened security in the area, she said.

We won't give up. All we want to do is burn some spirit money."

Bereaved mother

"There are police all the way up and down the street," Wang said. "Riot police, armed police, maybe several hundred of them. There are high-ranking officers there, too, and officials from our housing compound."

Authorities use video

"They are all out there. Just now we were burning spirit money and there were clashes. They were taking video of us but we didn't cave in. We wrested the camera away from them. They just started to lay into us without even trying to talk to us," she said.

"We won't give up. All we want to do is burn some spirit money."

Another parent at the scene counted more than 20 police vehicles and buses full of security personnel outside the Xinjian primary school.

Armed police were patrolling the streets, and more than 100 bereaved parents had tried to go to the school to commemorate their lost children. Some wanted to leave offerings outside the gates but were stopped by police.

Parents 'detained'

"There was Mr. He, [a parent] from our class. They took him away for questioning. Today is six months since the quake," a parent surnamed Yang said.

"We don't know what to do. All we want is to carry out mourning rituals for our children. I found out only today that several people have been detained today, and I'm sure this is the reason," she added.

Police denied that any bereaved parents had been detained.

"Where did you hear this? You should go there and confirm this for yourself," an officer at the Dujiangyan municipal police station said.

Asked if parents had been detained, he replied: "No, that did not happen."

The Sichuan quake killed more than 80,000 people. Many were children who had been napping or at their desks in poorly built schools that crumbled while other buildings nearby stood firm.

China vowed to punish those responsible after aggrieved parents blamed their children's deaths on substandard construction stemming from corruption and greed.

No prosecutions have been reported and parents say they have been pressured into dropping their complaints.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Hai Nan. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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