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China sends payments to quell earthquake parents' outrage

Chinese officials have sent condolences and payments to parents of children killed in a school that crumpled in the country's huge earthquake, seeking to defuse outrage over shoddy buildings and claimed corruption.
The letters of condolence from the Juyuan town government in southwest China's Sichuan province went to parents from the town middle school, where hundreds of children died when a classrooms building collapsed in the May 12 quake, even as nearby apartments and offices all stayed upright.
Grieving families in this semi-rural town 50 km from the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu, were divided in their reactions.
"At least this means they will face up more squarely to their responsibility," Zhao Deqin, a mother whose 15-year-old twin daughters, Yajia and Yaqi, died in the school, said on Monday.
"I don't believe words anymore," said Wu Dahua, a grandmother whose grandson, Zhang Dachun, died.
"I won't feel at rest until they lock up the people who made this tofu-dregs building."
Over 69,000 people died in the disaster, including at least 9,000 children trapped in schools that collapsed or were buried in landslides, according to local reports collected by Reuters.
Since then grieving parents have protested that government corruption made a mockery of school building safety standards, and their complaints have become the most politically volatile quake issue facing the ruling Communist Party as it seeks to keep an image of determined patriotic unity.
Last week, 150 parents from Juyuan gathered at a courthouse of nearby Dujiangyan city to demand redress for dead sons and daughters, clashing with police.
In a bid to avoid more protest, Juyuan officials delivered the letters of condolence and checks on Sunday, parents said.
"The Juyuan Town Communist Party Committee and government express our heartfelt grief for the deceased teachers and students," states the letter, shown to Reuters.
But it also reminds parents to heed government wishes.
"We sincerely ask parents of deceased children to believe that the Party and government will certainly appropriately handle everyone's demands. Don't believe or spread rumours and conscientiously devote yourselves to post-disaster rebuilding."
The letter said 284 children and teachers died in the Juyuan school and five were still missing. Parents had earlier estimated that as many as 500 may have died.
The letter vowed to enforce the government's demand that evidence from toppled public buildings be kept for inquiries.

Updated : 2021-05-08 01:57 GMT+08:00