06/09/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Collapsed schools: government offers condolences, 3,500 euros to "bury" students

The authorities send a "letter of condolences" to the parents of dead students. But the parents respond that they do not want kind words, but rather the punishment of those responsible for the poor building construction.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - "The Juyuan Town Communist Party Committee and government express our heartfelt grief for the deceased teachers and students", reads a letter sent yesterday, together with offers of compensation, to the parents of the approximately 300 children killed on May 12 (500, according to other sources) in the collapse of a public middle school.  The letter is mostly aimed at warding off further protests over poor construction and corruption, and asks "parents of deceased children to believe that the party and government will certainly appropriately handle everyone's demands. Don't believe or spread rumours, and conscientiously devote yourselves to post-disaster rebuilding".  It also promises 35,000 yuan (3,500 euros) as "condolence money" for funerals and as compensation for each child killed.

The parents are divided between those who maintain that the letter is an admission of responsibility and those who observe that the causes and those responsible for the collapse have still not been identified. Zhao Deqin, who lost her 15-year-old twin daughters, maintains that "at least this means they will face up more squarely to their responsibility". But Wu Dahua, the grandmother of one victim, says, "I don't believe words anymore. I won't feel at rest until they lock up the people who made this tofu-dregs building".

In any case, Zhao also believes that "there will be investigations, and when they start we'll send representatives to make sure there is no fraud".  Everyone observes that no initiatives have been taken against those responsible for the school and for its builders, and that "a letter is useless unless there's action. We want more than nice-sounding words".

The earthquake killed more than 69,000 people, including 9,000 students and teachers in school collapses.  In many areas, the schools collapsed while the buildings around them remained standing.  More than 150 parents in Juyuan went to the tribunal in nearby Dujiangyan last week to ask for justice, and clashed with the police.

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