HONG KONG—Parents who lost children in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake have vowed to keep up pressure on Beijing for a full investigation into charges of shoddy school construction, while others plan to mark the second quake anniversary under close surveillance.
“Today the authorities are still very nervous about this,” a parent surnamed Sang from Mianzhu city, whose child was killed in the collapse of the Fuxin No. 2 Primary School.
“Some of us have managed to get to Beijing. They are there now, and I have just got news from them,” Sang said. “They took a bus to a different location, and from there they took a train to Beijing.”
“Right now we are still under same surveillance as before. We can’t leave our homes, some of us not on any account,” he said.
“The local government knows [that the petitioners have arrived]. They are probably getting ready to send some people there.”
A Fuxin parent surnamed Wu said he had arrived in Beijing, but that local government officials had warned them several times not to talk to the media about their campaign.
“The local authorities have put a lot of pressure on us saying that we shouldn’t talk to reporters,” Wu said. “The government will put a huge amount of pressure on us once we got home. I am in Beijing now. Four [of us came].”
Activists led by artist Ai Weiwei have campaigned to identify more than 5,300 of the children who were killed during the earthquake, in which nearly 70,000 people died.
Ai posted the names, ordered according to their Chinese character stroke order, on his Twitter account Wednesday, which is followed by more than 30,000 people.
He also posted online an audio file more than three hours long in which volunteer netizens from all over China read out the names of the children who died, in a somber protest against the government’s refusal to allow any kind of public inquiry into their deaths.
Sichuan authorities have already jailed one activist, writer Tan Zuoren, after he carried out an independent investigation into the children’s deaths and published it online.
A parent surnamed Huang who lost a child in the collapse of the Juyuan High School in Dujiangyan city said a group of parents had also traveled to Beijing to lodge a complaint with the central government on the second anniversary of their children’s deaths.
“I heard that a lot of parents from the high school went there,” she said. “We are definitely planning to hold memorial rites.”
Chengdu-based rights activist Chen Yunfei said he would also be taking part in an activity to commemorate those who died.
“A group of friends from the Daci Temple are planning to have a moment of silence in honor of those who died on May 12, especially for the innocent children who died,” Chen said.
“We have just held a ceremony, myself, Wu Longhua, and Liu Shahe, along with some other friends who we drink tea with regularly.”
And the former head of the Sichuan provincial earthquake warning bureau Li Youcai, who has since written a 400,000-word report detailing how three warnings from the bureau were ignored by higher-ups, decided to take a trip for three days over the anniversary, his wife said.
“They’ve gone on holiday,” she said. “They’ll be back in three days’ time. They’ve arranged activities for some of the retired officials ... There’s no other reason,” she said on the eve of the quake anniversary.
Families of the thousands of people reported missing will be allowed Wednesday to register their loved ones as dead.
Under Chinese law, relatives of the 18,000 missing people can only register their family members as dead two years after they disappeared.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated from the Mandarin and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.