06/13/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Anger by quake victims’ families worrying Beijing

A month since the quake, there are neither answers nor help for thousands of parents who lost their children in the quake. Instead the police is more concerned about keeping them away from the rubbles and arresting those who help them. New restrictions are imposed on the press; ostensibly so that residents are not “disturbed”. Meanwhile first corruption cases involving aid are come to light.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A month to the day since a massive earthquake hit China’s Sichuan province on 12 May, collapsed schools are cordoned off by police, journalists are barred from the area, volunteers, prison inmates and the parents of dead children are getting angrier over the indifference and untruths of the authorities which, after getting the solidarity and sympathy of the world, are now trying to draw a curtain of silence over responsibilities. In the meantime the first scandals over missing funds for quake victims are breaking out.

For a month the parents of 9,000 pupils buried in schools razed by the quake are going back to rubbles in the vain attempt to find an answer no one is giving them. They want an investigation to find out whether school buildings were badly built since many buildings around them withstood the quake. Instead of providing such answers local authorities first urged them to be patient and then ignored their demands.

Tens of police officers are presently cordoning off schools in Juyuan, Dujiangyan, Wufu and elsewhere, preventing parents from reaching what is left of the buildings. All these mothers and fathers can do is burn incense every day, bring flowers and burn their children’s clothes and shoes in a traditional expression of mourning. For Jing Linzhong, who lost a son, “we find it therapeutic simply to gather at the school and meet with one another.”

Two days ago armed police rounded up more than 20 volunteers from Beichuan Middle School who were planning a memorial service for the more than a thousand pupils killed.

Elsewhere more than 200 parents blocked the road to Beichuan, demanding answers. Their anger is frightening because, as Wang Ping put it: “We're dispirited. [. . .] All our hopes were in our children. Now they're dead. Our future is dead, too.”  Mr Wang lost his 16-year-old daughter.

Meanwhile the National Audit Office yesterday reported three cases of misappropriated funds from donations worth hundreds of thousands of yuan.

The authorities have also decided to bar journalists from the quake zone, guilty in their eyes of focusing too much on tragedy and corruption and not enough on the authorities’ own glorious response to the natural disaster.

Wang Guoqing, deputy director of the Information Office of the State Council, said "the open policy remains unchanged" for reporters. But yesterday in Dujiangyan BBC's China correspondent James Reynolds and five other journalists were detained for approaching the parents who had gathered near Middle School N.1 for a memorial service.

Sichuan authorities have issued new regulations today requiring journalists to apply for new press passes in quake zones and limiting the number.

For Deputy Director Wang traffic restrictions were imposed for security needs and to “avoid disturbing residents” like dead pupils’ parents.

The Ministry of Public Security ordered local police authorities to protect life and maintain social order in disaster-hit areas as priorities, banning any form of public demonstration.

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