Parents of the China earthquake victims told they can't mourn
Parents of the children that died in the China earthquake, May 12th 2008, have been told by Chinese authorities that they cannot hold memorials or morn for their deaths on that day as they risk imprisonment.
It was only yesterday that the Chinese government released the numbers of the dead, at 5,335, after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake, but there has been anger about the fact that the government has not held a formal inquiry into why the schools collapsed and why so many people died and are still missing. They are worries about protests against them on the first anniversary.
To try and avoid these protests, they have declared that if they hold memorials for their children on that day they could face jail time. Some parents have already been placed in 'black jails' for 21 days and have been threatened with longer terms if they put up a fight.
"The police visited me earlier this week and said that if we stage a memorial, then we won't just be temporarily detained, but we might go to prison for a few years," said Luo Guoming.
Mr. Luo's daughter was just 16 when she died in the earthquake at the Juyuan Middle School near Dujiangyan, but the school area is now surrounded by barbed wire and parents and journalists have been told they cannot go near it. Mr. Luo was already placed in jail for 7 days last year after he was caught traveling to Chengdu to ask why there had been no inquries made into the school collapse.
The reason for the collapse of the schools is thought to be poor construction and building materials, and even though the government promised to hold an investigation into the deaths they have yet to do so. The govenrment claims that the earthquake was so strong and that was why the buildings fell down, however some buildings around the schools managed to stay upright while the schools collapsed.
However yesterday Liu Zuoming, the head of the Sichuan Provincial Justice Department, stated that the reason the schools fell down was due to poor construction, and this was rare breach of the government's silence on the matter.
The parents of the children say that the death toll is actually closer to 9,000, and have wondered why it took so long for the government to release the 'offcial numbers'. Foreign journalists are not allowed into the earthquake region around May 12th, and parents of the dead children have been told not to speak to them.
No one knows what is going to happen on May 12th though and how the parents are going to remember the children they lost.