A few days before the first anniversary of the earthquake in Sichuan province, parents who lost their children when their schools collapsed, fear they won’t be allowed to properly commemorate the disaster. (photo, from bbc.co.uk)
While many parents want to return to the site of the schools, the authorities have previously stopped them from going there on sensitive occasions. They are also said to be monitoring the parents ahead of 12 May.
China still hasn’t said how many children were among the 90,000 dead and missing.
The magnitude-8-earthquake damaged nearly 14,000 schools, some of them poorly or hastily built, admitted the government.
In order to mark the first anniversary of the death of her 15-year-old son Guo Jun, Hu Hongfang wants to return to Juyuan Middle School. Yet she is not hopeful about being allowed to get to the collapsed school site, in the city of Dujiangyan in northern Sichuan Province.
“On every occasion parents have wanted to pay their respects to their children, the whole school and nearby area have been sealed off”, she said.
And she isn’t the only parent who tells that.
Zhou Siqiang, lost his daughter at the Juyuan school. She said that on a number of occasions, parents have been prevented from visiting the site.
He said they were prevented from going to the site on last month’s Tomb Sweeping Day, when Chinese people traditionally visit family graves.
However he was undeterred : “I think I will join others and go to the school on the first anniversary of the earthquake.”
Some of the methods used by the authorities to prevent the parents from staging public displays of grief have been detailed by parents of another collapsed school, across Dujiangyan.
The methods includes stopping the parents from leaving their homes and taking them away from the city during sensitive times.
Monitoring the parents
These parents, whose children died at Xinjian Primary School, say they fear the same will happen on the earthquake’s first anniversary.
Though the local government and police did not want to immediately comment on the parents’ claims, the man who runs a cemetery, where many of the Xinjian schoolchildren are buried, confirmed that there is a special team monitoring the parents.
The special “work team” is attached to the local police station, said Chen Hua, who works at Baoshanta Cemetery.
A report, released this week by Amnesty International, said the authorities continued to intimidate and detain parents who had lost children in the earthquake.
Parents who are still wondering why so many schools collapsed during the earthquake are particularly targeting, said the rights group.
“The government of China must cease harassing earthquake survivors who are seeking answers and trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives”, said Amnesty International’s Roseann Rife.