Sunday, June 15, 2008

Prolonging the Saga, Edited

It's been over a month since the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan.

Everyday there is still lots of coverage on it in domestic media. The focus now is on reconstruction and how many billions of yuan have been donated from people in China and around the world.

There are ads and posters talking about the earthquake disaster, and how we must all do our part.

In the first few days after the quake, I donated some money to The Bookworm, a local English bookstore that has a branch in Chengdu. They took the cash and donated tents and clothes to the quake-hit areas.

A friend told me her step-son, about seven-years-old, was going to donate 100RMB at his school collection. But he soon found out that everyone else was giving 1,000RMB, and he had no choice but to do the same. He was learning that charity can really hit your pocketbook, when it is about giving what you can instead of keeping up with the Joneses.

Basketball star Yao Ming was at first criticized on online forums for only donating 2 million yuan, so he recently set up the Giving Back Fund to raise money to rebuild schools. It has donated $2 million.

Why are people like Yao condemned for their donations and why is it so important to publicize how much they give?

Charity is charity; we give what we can afford to give. Why do we need to justify the amount? It's the thought that counts.

Besides, the Chinese government's foreign exchange or forex reserves are almost $2 trillion. Couldn't the government even just use a fraction of that amount to help rebuild the quake-hit areas and help people move on with their lives?

Not only do houses need to be built, but jobs found and those who lost limbs through amputation will need rehabilitation to learn how to adjust to their new situation.

Instead the government has ordered many departments to cut their operational budgets by five percent.

Reconstruction in the area will take years. Cutting budgets by such a small percentage isn't going to be enough.

But the most pressing thing for many families in this tragedy is to find out what happened to their children who died in the collapsed schools.

There are no figures on the number of children who died -- only the number of schools -- over 185. If attendance records were made accessible, then it would be easy to find out the exact number.

In the last few weeks parents have not been allowed to publicly mourn, submit a lawsuit or protest for an independent investigation to find out if the schools really were shoddily built as they claim. If they were, then the parents can sue someone. But if nothing is found out, these mothers and fathers will not be able to come to terms with their children's deaths.

Many of them are blaming themselves for insisting their son or daughter to go to school. Of course they would -- education is the key to making a better life for the next generation. But how were they to know the school would collapse? This guilt will never go away if the issue isn't resolved.

Domestic media have been told by the Propaganda Department not to cover this issue and instead to focus on reconstruction efforts. So it is up to the foreign media to get to the bottom of this matter.

And hopefully this time the Chinese people will be grateful that it is the foreign media who will help them uncover the truth they so desperately need to know.

1 comment:

ks said...

the chinese government and countries all over the world have chipped in to help the quake victims. it is a hugh task for the local officials starting to rebuild. dont forget it took the u.s. 8 long years to rebuild ground zero even though it is only a little hole in comparison to the damages of the sichuan quake.