Thursday, May 7, 2009

Not Adding Up

This afternoon the Sichuan government released the figure of 5,335 as the number of students who died and 546 injured in the province after the May 12 earthquake last year.

Five days to the first anniversary the government decided to release this "official" figure, even though a disproportionate number of school buildings collapsed compared to other ones.

Tu Wentao, head of the Sichuan education department said the delay in announcing the total was due to having to compile them from various government agencies.

"These numbers were reached through legal methods. We have wide agreement on these numbers," he told a press conference in the provincial capital of Chengdu.

However, there are other estimates of between 7,000 to 9,000 students and teachers killed. In addition, the government had admitted earlier that 14,000 schools were damaged or collapsed in the 8.0-magnitude quake.

If the government says over 5,000 students died in 14,000 schools, then that's an average of 2.64 children per school.

How is that possible?

Artist Ai Wei Wei who helped design the Bird's Nest, has an army of volunteers who are trying to collect the names of the dead in the Sichuan earthquake and remember them online.

"From this attitude you can tell the government is trying to coverup this wrong doings of schools which collapsed during the earthquake and killed thousands of students," he told the BBC.

The government is also attempting to silence the parents by paying people to watch their every move. According to an article in the New York Times, one of the fathers who is being spied on says people, mostly village officials, are being paid 150 RMB ($22) a day to watch two dozen parents who want justice for their lost children.

Meanwhile foreign journalists, who are the only ones to get some kind of accountability in China, are being prevented from meeting with these parents, some physically harmed, others having their equipment broken.

This is how much the government wants to hide the truth.

After the earthquake happened, there was pretty much free rein on reporting. Chinese reporters filed stories almost 24 hours a day, showing scenes of devastation, talking to survivors and crying with them, also trying to find images of hope in the rubble.

But after that short period of almost real journalism, the government started to control things again and tightened its grip even further on what can be said about that unforgettable event.

Even though some couples have managed to conceive again a year after the quake, they have determined that their new son or daughter must carry on the legacy of their dead child to make sure they get justice.

It is a heavy burden for these newborns. But until the government is willing to acknowledge responsibility, the next generation will continue fighting for the truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After their failure to punish those responsible for the shoddy constructions as well as the milk powder disaster, I've finally concluded that Hu and Wen are nowhere near what the medium portray them to be. Instead, these two are incompetent bastards. What they've achieved 6 years after they took office? Nothing. With the corrupted communist party in charge, China has no future.