This is the likely conclusion of reports produced by at least local Chinese administrations in regards to the May earthquake – if indeed any of the promised investigations were ever held.
“We were rounded up and ordered to sign the contract if we wanted to collect the government’s gift of free life insurance,” Liu explained. “They also said we would get £5,000 in cash as compensation for our dead children.” Some parents were already signing their forms.
“How do we even know if it is real life insurance?” he said. “If we accept the cash, my wife and I want to use it to take the local government to court over the death of our daughter, but we’re afraid it is not enough to cover the legal fees.
“If we don’t sign the contract, we are afraid we will be left with no children and no money to look after us when we grow old.
“We’re thinking about having another child to safeguard our future. Eventually that child will also have to go to school and we’re afraid if we don’t cooperate with the government now they will cause problems for the child later on.”
If the central Chinese government wants to say that the parents are taking the money willingly, they are suggesting Chinese people put a cash value on their children that can supercede a fair and open investigation into their death – would this be the “modern China” the CCP is building? Personally I would suggest the authorities are coercing parents into agreeing to take hush-money through lies (such as “everyone else is going to sign, so you can achieve nothing by yourself”) and threats (“take the money or you get nothing, and if you protest you will be arrested and beaten/imprisoned for causing unrest”).
The “official” report that was disclosed in relation to Hanwang stated that the school had collapsed purely because of the earthquake.
On Monday, the parents from Hanwang met for the fourth time with the deputy mayor of Deyang, which administrates Hanwang. The deputy mayor, Zhang Jinming, verbally delivered the conclusion of the government investigation – that the school had collapsed solely because of the earthquake – and declared the case closed, parents said.
Although some areas were very badly hit, in others it was the case that other buildings in the area were left standing when the schools collapsed. Will investigations be held by the central authorities and published in full, giving the honest answer as to why in a number of areas schools (especially those frequented by the children of poor families) were hardest hit? I would say “we can only hope”, but judging by past form it is likely that even if some people are made examples of, the central government will then seek to bury the matter by saying it has been dealt with and not hold a full, open inquiry. After all, the local authorities cannot instigate national censorship of a news item, such as gagging the official media.
The following is an extract of a BBC report in relation to the earthquake.
A Chinese teacher has been detained for posting images on the internet of schools that collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake, a rights group has said. Human Rights in China said Liu Shaokun had been ordered to serve a year of “re-education through labour”. Mr Liu was detained for “disseminating rumours and destroying social order”, the group said.
The 12 May quake killed nearly 70,000 people. Many of those who died were children whose schools collapsed. The poor condition of the school buildings has become a sensitive political issue for the government, and grieving parents have staged numerous protests demanding an inquiry. Many have accused local officials of colluding with builders to allow them to get away with cheap and unsafe practices.
“Instead of investigating and pursuing accountability for shoddy and dangerous school buildings, the authorities are resorting to re-education through labour to silence and lock up concerned citizens like teacher Liu Shaokun and others,” said Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom.
Who thinks that the central government is going to ride to Mr Liu’s rescue? Because if it doesn’t then it’s another sign that at the very least it approves of the local/regional governments’ actions in suppressing reporting/calls for fair investigations into why so many schools collapsed. Indeed the central government is in many ways responsible for this and other similar human rights violations because it keeps “re-education through labour” legal – an administration that really cared about human rights would abolish it, or at least make it a punishment that can only be handed down by the criminal court.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.