China remembers dead of Qinghai. Rescue of Tibetan monks forbidden
Jiegu (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The whole of China is today marking a day of mourning for the quake victims in Qinghai. Flags fly at half mast in front of all public buildings, have been meetings cancelled and light entertainment broadcasts banned.
In the capital, a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee, with the leaders of the Party and State, began with minutes of silence.
This morning, in the main square of Jiegu, near the epicentre of the earthquake, at least a thousand people dressed in mourning gathered at 10 for the flag and national anthem. Even teams of rescuers stopped for three minutes of silence. A long banner camped outside the headquarters of the municipality bears the words "In memory of our compatriots killed in the earthquake of Yushu”.
The earthquake that struck the region last April 14th on the Tibetan plateau has destroyed nearly 80% of the poor developments of mud, wood and brick. According to Xinhua, up to last night the death toll was 2064 dead and 12,135 wounded. At least 195 people are missing.
Work on the recovery of bodies under the rubble continues; Tibetan monks had so far worked alongside the rescue teams. The prefecture of Yushu, affected by the earthquake, has a population 97% of ethnic Tibetans. But the desire expressed by the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader, to visit the area, has hardened the attitude of the leadership and local authorities.
Two days ago, Jia Qinglin warned that "hostile forces abroad are working to create division and sabotage" in the wake of the earthquake. He did not explicitly mention the Dalai Lama, even if Beijing continuously accuses the Dalai Lama of wanting to "divide the nation" and "foment terrorism."
Many monks who arrived in Yushu to help in rescue operations have been ordered to leave the area. According to local witnesses, the order seems to affect mainly the monks who come from Ganzi Prefecture (Sichuan). The monks of Yushu seem to continue offering their work. In recent days, the monks in Sichuan said they wanted the truth about the figures of the dead that issued by the government. They think that the death toll is much higher.
A monk quoted by Radio Free Asia said that "the government always releases doctored numbers. A friend of mine said that only a few days ago at least 2 thousand bodies have been cremated. Some think that the death toll could be 8-9 thousand. "
Some monasteries in Lhasa and Nagchu have collected money and food aid, but the authorities have banned its direct distribution and require that all aid be distributed through official channels.