Wednesday, July 23, 2008

China Presses Grieving Parents to Take Hush Money on Quake

New York Times Article
HANWANG, China — The official came for Yu Tingyun in his village one evening last week. He asked Mr. Yu to get into his car. He was clutching the contract and a pen.

Parents of some of the Dongqi students killed in the school collapse protested at a government office in Mianzhu on May 31.
Mr. Yu’s daughter had died in a cascade of concrete and bricks, one of at least 240 students at a high school here who lost their lives in the May 12 earthquake. Mr. Yu became a leader of grieving parents demanding to know if the school, like so many others, had crumbled because of poor construction.

The contract had been thrust in Mr. Yu’s face during a long police interrogation the day before. In exchange for his silence and for affirming that the ruling Communist Party “mobilized society to help us,” he would get a cash payment and a pension.

The article goes on to give an example of a settlement: $8,800 cash and $5,600/parent pension. If these are typical numbers for the estimated 10,000 student killed from collapsed buildings, the total is ~$200 million or RMB 1.5 billion. That's a lot of payoff/hush money. I wonder if it's coming from Beijing or the local/provincial government. It's even more disgusting knowing most of the corruption money goes towards mistresses and luxury items for communist party officials.
Officials are also using more traditional arrows in their authoritarian quiver: riot police officers have broken up protests by parents; the authorities have set up cordons around the schools; and officials have ordered the Chinese news media to stop reporting on school collapses. A human rights advocate trying to help some parents, Huang Qi, has been jailed.

Local government leaders have repeatedly promised to get to the bottom of why a staggering 7,000 classrooms collapsed in the quake, killing about 10,000 children. But there is little evidence that they have conducted more than a cursory examination, and there are hints of a cover-up. Even as negotiations with some parents continue, local governments have bulldozed the remains of many schools, appearing to close the door on a full investigation.


The New York Times obtained a copy of the compensation contract offered to parents from Hanwang. It is written as if the parents were appealing to a beneficent ruler for money.

“From now on, under the leadership of the party and the government, we will obey the law and maintain social order,” it says. “We vow resolutely not to take part in any activity that disturbs post-earthquake reconstruction.”

Another section is full of praise for the Communist Party: “Natural disaster is merciless, but the world is full of love. The party and the government reached out their hands to us and mobilized society to help us and alleviate our hardships. In this regard, we sincerely appreciate the help and care from the party, government and society!”

Sigh... you can't make this stuff up!

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