China marks fifth anniversary of Sichuan earthquake


Mon, May 13, 2013 - Page 1

China yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake that killed more than 80,000, but some said questions remained over the thousands of children who died as their schools collapsed.

The magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck Sichuan Province on the afternoon of May 12, 2008, with its epicenter at Wenchuan County. Another 4.45 million were hurt in China’s worst quake in more than three decades.

The mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Daily, praised government efforts toward reconstruction, but outspoken Internet commentators remembered the thousands of children who died.

“It’s the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, as well as Mother’s Day. Hard to forget those young faces lying under the school buildings,” Fengguo De Wuhou 1117 said on a microblog.

“Five years and the promise to thoroughly investigate the ‘tofu-built’ projects in the quake area still lingers around the ears,” the posting said, using a Chinese phrase for shoddy construction.

Thousands of children died and 7,000 schools were badly damaged in the earthquake, triggering accusations of poor construction and corruption, especially as some other buildings nearby remained standing.

Calls for transparency from the government on how many students were killed led to beatings and arrests of activists, including dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未).

Ai yesterday tweeted a link to his work Remembrance, voice recordings of people reading the names of students who died in the earthquake.

Ai was badly beaten by police when he tried to testify in support of activist Tan Zuoren (譚作人), who had investigated the school buildings.

The People’s Daily called the earthquake a “grave catastrophe,” but said the recovery was a symbol of China’s strength.

“In less than three years, the Wenchuan disaster zone has completed the task of reconstruction with impressive speed,” the newspaper said in a front-page commentary.

“To achieve a new victory of building a prosperous society, this is the best way to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake,” it said.