06/19/2008, 00.00
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Beijing says earthquake will make Chinese economy grow

Government experts maintain that the work of reconstruction will have positive effects on the economy. Meanwhile, Beijing is arresting anti-corruption activists, is not responding to the parents of students who died beneath the schools, and is lodging accusations against donor companies. The "strange" management of the post-earthquake situation.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - According to the state information centre, the reconstruction work following the earthquake will add 0.3% to the Chinese economy in 2008.  The estimate seems to be consistent with services and industrial structures, without considering the loss of life and the damage to private citizens.  Meanwhile, Beijing accuses companies of not giving promised aid, is arresting activists who are denouncing corruption linked to the earthquake, and are not responding to the questions from parents of the almost 9,000 children who died beneath collapsed schools.  The "strange" management after the earthquake, to avoid social discontent and protests.

Criticism is growing in the country over management following the earthquake. In Mianyang on June 16, the police arrested Zeng Hongling, the author of three articles on corrupt officials who permitted the construction of unstable buildings and are making the displaced live in miserable conditions.  She is accused of "possible incitement to subversion against state authorities".  Yesterday, Huang Qi, founder of the human rights centre Tianwang, was also put into jail, accused of "illegal possession of state secrets", even though - according to his lawyer, Mo Shaoping - it is not clear what the secrets are.  He is also critical toward the authorities in the area of the earthquake.

The parents of the more than 280 children who died beneath the dormitory of the Muyu middle school charge that the building was constructed poorly, and that the doors were locked so that no one could get out.  Li Haosheng, communist party secretary of the county of Qingchuan, promised them that investigations would be conducted, after they trapped him inside his vehicle for an entire day.  But on June 9, they received a letter, without any seal or signature, stating that there will be no investigations.  Now they are looking for Li, but dozens of policemen have prevented them from entering county offices, in front of which some of them have been waiting for days.  The area is now off limits to the media.  It was not until June 17, more than one month later, that official investigations were announced for some of the collapsed schools, but it is not known whether these will involve all of the schools.

Beijing wanted to demonstrate efficiency and transparency in response to the disaster.  But now many areas of the earthquake are off limits to the media.  And it is impossible to put faces to all of the almost 70,000 victims: Song Ming, communist party secretary of the county of Beichuan, admits that only 9,000 of the 15,600 verified casualties have been identified.  The same thing is happening everywhere, in part because many of the victims were migrant workers.

It may be in order to soften this discontent that the government is trumpeting that in spite of the disaster, the economy will grow, as if to demonstrate the efficiency of the state no matter what.  This is the context for yesterday's accusation by the trade minister, who said that at least 11 multinational companies - including Wal-Mart, Unilever, Google, Texas Instruments, and China Steel of Taiwan - have given less aid than they promised.  These accusations were immediately denied by some of the companies, which complain - like Wal-Mart spokesman Mou Mingming - that in this way the minister "has confused public opinion and created misunderstandings toward Wal-Mart".

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See also
Police guard collapsed schools to prevent parents' protests
Children killed by Party corruption, more than by the earthquake
The many untruths about collapse of dormitory on 300 students in Sichuan
Sichuan earthquake: government prohibits investigations into collapsed schools
The Panchen Lama turns 19; 13 years spent as prisoner of Beijing


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