Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Chinese Police Intimidate Parents of Quake Victims

from the New York Times: Chinese Police Confront Grieving Parents

DUJIANGYAN, China — Police officers surrounded more than 100 parents protesting shoddy school construction and mourning the deaths of thousands of children during the recent earthquake, dragged away several crying mothers and harassing journalists, according to witnesses and photographs of the protest.

The standoff between the parents, many carrying framed photos of their dead children, and the policemen, dressed in black uniforms, lasted for several hours. In the end, the parents walked away. Some said they felt both intimidated and frustrated.

“Because so many police surrounded us, we couldn’t do anything, so we went home,” said a protestor who gave her name as Ms. Li, who had lost a teenage daughter.

The confrontation in the town of Dujiangyan, the scene of several major school collapses when the earthquake struck on May 12, is the strongest sign so far of the government’s growing impatience with any public airing of grievances over unsafe school construction. Across the hardest hit areas of Sichuan Province, in southwest China, parents have been demanding investigations into why so many schools collapsed across the region even as, in many cases, surrounding buildings remained standing.

About 10,000 schoolchildren are estimated to have been killed in the earthquake, whose confirmed death toll rose to more than 69,107 on Tuesday. The government lists 18,230 people as missing.

Several Chinese journalists have said in recent days that officials from the central government have told their news organizations not to continue reporting on the issue.

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