China quake ruins cleared, but school anger unbowed

Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:10pm EST
 
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By Simon Rabinovitch

JUYUAN, China (Reuters) - The morning before China's vast earthquake killed Kang Ergui's son, the father worked as a security guard at the boy's school.

Now seven months on, Kang is among the grieving parents who -- harassed, silenced, and sometimes arrested -- keep defiant vigil over memories and questions the government would rather leave untouched in the disappearing rubble.

The May 12 quake rocked China's southwest, killing more than 80,000 people, toppling towns and villages, and turning schools to rubble even in areas otherwise spared the worst carnage.

The Chinese government has embarked on a massive, frenzied reconstruction drive that spares no time for the doubts that torture families of the children killed.

The parents say there is less room than ever for their suggestion that incompetence or corruption led to the building of shoddy schools that crumbled all to easily.

"The Communist Party and central policies are good. Things change at the local level," said Kang, an oversized jacket draped on his slight frame. "They don't allow us to be interviewed. The police send people to monitor us, to have us re-educated."

A mild-mannered man, Kang would have been a quiet, pliant citizen in normal times, blending into the background. The quake has changed that.

The school where his only son, 16-year-old Yang Bo, was crushed to death along with about 300 other students has reopened nearby, but Kang said his contract as a guard, which ran until 2009, was scrapped because of his stubborn demand for answers.   Continued...

 
<p>A woman collects bricks at the ruins of houses which were destroyed by the earthquake in Qingchuan, Sichuan province in this December 16, 2008 photo. The May 12 quake rocked China's southwest, killing more than 80,000 people, toppling towns and villages, and turning schools to rubble even in areas otherwise spared the worst carnage. Picture taken December 16, 2008. REUTERS/Christina Hu/Files</p>