06/05/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Police guard collapsed schools to prevent parents' protests

Almost one month after the earthquake, no one can explain why so many schools collapsed, while the parents of the students who died say they were constructed poorly. Now the police are breaking up their gatherings, and driving away the journalists. But one parent warns: "We are not afraid, we have already lost everything".

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - As of today, police and army personnel are standing guard in front of the schools destroyed by the earthquake, to prevent the parents of students who died there from gathering.

Many schools collapsed in the earthquake on May 12, while the buildings around them remained standing.  Out of about 69,000 confirmed dead, more than 9,000 are students and teachers.  The parents accuse the local authorities of constructing them poorly, and of corruption.  For weeks, they have been meeting at the rubble, carrying photos of their children, to ask for answers and justice.

Beijing has appointed investigation commissions, but has not provided any answers.  Public demonstrations are prohibited in China, but until now no one had dared to intervene.  But on June 3, in Dujiangyan, a protest demonstration of about 100 people, mostly grieving parents, was "dispersed" by the police, who "took away" those who were asking for the punishment of the people responsible for the poor construction.  Also in Dujiangyan, the police yesterday ordered journalists to leave the area around the wreckage of the Xinjian school, where about 400 students and teachers died, and where parents have been protesting for weeks.  The school is the only building that collapsed in the area.  The army is also standing guard against "illegal meetings" in front of the middle school of Juyuan.

Yang Xueshu lost his 14-year-old daughter among the 400 students who died in the middle school of Xiang, built just six or seven years ago.  Many students were found dead in the stairwell, just a few seconds away from safety.  Yang explains that "we do not have the resources to sue" those responsible, "we are only farmers".

The parents want to know how much was spent on building the school, and how it was constructed.  They went to the authorities of the city of Dujangyan, responsible for the area, but "no one would meet with us", says Li Fuliang, who lost his son, "they told us that the person responsible wasn't there".  "We waited for hours under the sun.  Finally someone came out to yell at us and make us leave".  Their only recourse is to ask for justice from the state, which as of today is warning that even grief is a merely private matter, and cannot justify unauthorised public meetings.  But in Wufu, a woman named Zheng, who lost her 10-year-old daughter in the elementary school Fuxin Number Two, says "What should we be afraid of? We have already lost everything".

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