HONG KONG—At least a dozen parents whose children died in a massive earthquake in China’s Sichuan province earlier this year were detained during a visit to the area over the weekend by President Hu Jintao, according to several of the parents involved.
“The officials did not want those parents to petition. That’s why they were detained,” said a resident of Dujiangyan city named Liu.
Liu, whose own child died in the collapse of the Xinjian Primary School during the earthquake, said that a dozen parents from nearby districts had been taken away by police. All were “active petitioners” seeking official accountability for the deaths of their children, Liu said.
“When Hu left, some of them were released,” she said.
Reached for comment, an officer at the Pu Yang Lu police station denied knowledge of the detentions.
“There are no parents here,” she said. “I don’t know the details. This kind of case would be handled by special [police] groups.”
Picked up by police
One parent, named Yan, said that she and her husband were picked up by police while shopping and were held for a day before being released at 4:00 p.m. on Monday.
“We were right on the street,” Yan said. “[The police] did not question us, and held us separately. We could not see the other parents.”
Yan said that she and her husband had previously been detained for ten days during a visit to the area in September by Premier Wen Jiabao.
Other parents had planned to bring children injured in the earthquake to petition Hu on Sunday but were also picked up and detained, sources said.
One resident, named Zhang, said that her group included seven people. They were held for the afternoon in a store near their gathering place and then released.
“Parents wanted to petition Hu, but we were hauled away,” she said.Still being held
Another parent, named Du, was detained on Friday and is still being held, according to a resident named Chen. “We don’t know the reason,” Chen said. “She and other friends were walking on the street, but were taken away by police. We believe that she was sent to a re-education camp.”
Du had also been detained in October for blaming the local government and school administration for the substandard construction of school buildings that collapsed, Chen said.
More than 300 students are believed to have died in the collapse of the Xinjian Primary School in Dujiangyan in the Sichuan earthquake on May 12. About 200 students and teachers died in the collapse of the Dujiangyan Middle School according to official reports, though parents of the children killed place the death toll at closer to 500.Original reporting in Cantonese by Hai Nan. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Written for the Web in English by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.