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China's quake unrest continues

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Paul Mason | 09:23 UK time, Friday, 27 June 2008

Reliable news from China is hard to come by but it is now clear that the protest movement over the collapsed schools is not going away. My colleagues at BBC Monitoring in Caversham are producing a 14 day update of social unrest reportage in the Chinese language media, inside and outside the PRC. Here are just a few entries from the 12-25 June edition:

Beichuan parents block road in protest against police clampdown: On 12 June, more than 200 grieving parents blocked the road into Beichuan town in protest against the authorities' attempt to prevent them from commemorating the one-month anniversary of their children's deaths in the earthquake, Hong Kong's Asia Television reported. Beichuan county authorities kicked out 26 volunteers for organizing a memorial at the ruins of Beichuan No 1 Middle School, where more than 1,000 students were killed, Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported...

...Villagers said that police officers also smashed a tombstone which the volunteers had erected in memory of the dead children, the paper said.
(Asia Television, Hong Kong, in Chinese 14 Jun 08; South China Morning Post website, Hong Kong, in English 14 Jun 08)

Police guard Juyuan Middle School, block memorial: On 12 June, the one-month anniversary of the earthquake, hundreds of police officers blocked roads leading to Juyuan Middle School, Dujiangyan, and prevented bereaved parents from holding a memorial on the anniversary of their children's deaths, the US-funded radio station Radio Free Asia reported.Three parents were arrested by the police and detained for three days, said Radio Free Asia. Foreign journalists were driven away, some even had their equipment broken, the report said.
(Radio Free Asia website, Washington DC, in Chinese 13, 22 Jun 08)

More than 150 parents rally at school ruins in Mianzhu: On 20 June, more than 150 bereaved parents rallied at the ruins of Fuxin No 2 Primary School, Wufu Township, Mianzhu city, demanding the government publicize results of its investigation into the collapse of the school, Radio Free Asia reported. More than 100 police officers were sent to the scene to "maintain order" and prevent foreign media from interviewing the parents, the report said. (Radio Free Asia website, Washington DC, in Chinese 21 Jun 08)

Dujiangyan parents clash with police at local court: On 21 June, about 200 bereaved parents clashed with police in Dujiangyan city when they petitioned the local court for an explanation on the collapse of Xinjian Primary School during the earthquake, Radio Free Asia reported. Several parents were beaten up by the police and at least three were arrested, the report quoted parents as saying.
(Radio Free Asia website, Washington DC, in Chinese 22 Jun 08)

Founder of 64tianwang rights website arrested over quake coverage: Cyber-dissident Huang Qi, founder of the human rights website 64tianwang, was arrested in Chengdu, the capital of the earthquake-hit province of Sichuan, on 10 June, and was accused of "illegal possession of state secrets", Paris-based media freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres said on its website. Huang Qi's arrest could be linked to the 64tianwang website's publication of three articles by retired university professor Zeng Hongling criticizing the way the authorities handled the quake relief aid, RSF quoted an editor of 64tianwang website as saying. Zeng Hongling had been detained since 9 June on charges of "inciting state subversion", according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
(Reporters Sans Frontieres website, Paris, in English 18 Jun 08; Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Hong Kong, in Chinese 18 Jun 08)

Mr Huang had criticised the Chinese media in the following terms: "The reports we are seeing are biased. In reality, it is very difficult for NGOs to deliver food aid. They are obliged to go through government channels. The government is using its propaganda to portray itself as a saviour to little avail. Few citizens trust the government because of the corruptions scandals that already occurred during similar disasters in the past."

My colleague James Reynolds, who was there during the Dujiangyan crackdown has blogged about this at length. Read his report here. The (to date 68) comments also make interesting reading because they contain a sustained critique of the BBC's reporting there from Chinese posters, claiming that foreign reporters in the crackdown were only arrested for their own safety: another theme is "give the government time", another that James and the foreign media corps in China have been "brainwashed".

(I should also add that although some of the above reports are monitored from US-backed station "Radio Free Asia" I have found its reporting standards high and its ability to speak to reliable witnesses inside the PRC pretty good.)

So, just in case you were wondering, Xian Ren San Ji - the occasional Chinese incarnation of Idle Scrawl - is back: I look forward to your comments. Fire away.


  • Comment number 1.

    As ever I have a mindless question that most won't be interested in. Its also only partially on subject.

    One of the great tragedies about the Quake, and everyones hearts must go out to the Chinese, was to see one child families lose their child.

    I had to go back to study relatively recently (2003/4) as I was finding it hard to get work (best regards to the "government" people who came to my last leaving do).

    Anyway about 30% of the University were Chinese (nationals). That is close to a dependency relationship by the way with regard to recent debates.

    But my point is most of these students were very liberal and easy going. I did not detect the "doctrinaire" mindset - although they were of course patriotic.

    So I can't see them sticking to the one child policy.

    Do you have any information about what the "real" child birth trends are?

    I am thinking in terms of social pressures and suchlike. One of your guests the other week/month said there was no link between population density and social unrest and violence. I find that very hard to believe but I don't have any stats to back it up.

  • Comment number 2.


    When Winscale leaked, our authorities warned us immediately didn't they? And when that shuttle took off (the one that the engineers knew would blow up) the launch was postponed - right? Hey, isn't it great to live in the democratic West?

  • Comment number 3.

    Paul Mason:

    The unrest in China following the earthquake...Maybe the catalyst for some major changes in the running of the country..

    Thanks for the BBC Monitoring Bureaux in Cavendish, United Kingdom, for the updates [14 day status] reports.

  • Comment number 4.


  • Comment number 5.


    It looks rather as if I might have been caught down-wind of winDscale on Leakday. I seem to have acquired key Stage zero.

  • Comment number 6.

    Will BBC Monitoring Bureaux will make the information the Situation in China available....


  • Comment number 7.

    Freedom of speech and expression are universal human rights.

    Grieving parents must have the right to speak out, to protest if they wish. Journalists must have the freedom to write. Rights activists must be free to work with those in need of help.

    What happened to the promises China made that the Olympics would improve human rights?


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