Shoddily-Built School Collapses Test Beijing’s Openness

An FT report that some parents of children killed in a school collapse in the Sichuan earthquake are considering legal action against local officials they believe responsible for sub-standard construction highlights the growing point of protest in what has otherwise being a “good” disaster response for the authorities.

The school in question, a middle school in Juyuan, is not the only one in Sichuan to have been shaken to the ground. Nigh on 5,000 schoolchildren perished in the quake, creating a potentially powerful lobby of angry parents.

Investigations into shoddy construction standards are already underway across the province. The education ministry has promised “severe” punishment for any offenders found; the chief justice of the Supreme court has called for lower courts to crack down on any earthquake related corruption. No doubt guilty parties will be found, if more among local than central government officials.

State media has given unprecedented, if carefully managed, coverage to the disaster. The images have been of heroic effort and extensive mourning, but they can’t completely mask the fact that schools and houses have collapsed where party and government buildings still stand. Yet questions of responsibility are absent. Even on the internet, vociferous in its criticism of foreign governments over Tibet, only the faintest of concerns about construction standards are being voiced, or at least in the posting let stand.

The school building affair will prove an interesting test of how much openness is really being permitted, and, for Beijing, a measure of how much it dare safely allow.

3 Comments

Filed under Media, Politics & Society, Sichuan earthquake

3 responses to “Shoddily-Built School Collapses Test Beijing’s Openness

  1. There was a report on the news about a school built under the Hope Project. The school has resisted the quake and no child was injured.
    The manager of the project was interviewed, and commented he had to fight corruption all the way to uphold high construction standards (those recommended by both the law and the Hope Project specifications book) . The result was visible to all.
    The manager asked the Chinese media to keep his name confidential as he feared retaliation of local corrupted officials if he would become too much of a celebrity for his deed.
    That the show was aired on TV is a testimony to the will of the Chinese central government to crack down on corrupted officials. The latter will be swiftly tried and convicted. There won’t be a 10-year reprieve lingering in a State prison while exhausting a host of appeal possibilities: they’ll get their richly-deserved punishment, a bullet through the heart. No need for parental lobbies.

  2. Pingback: Beijing Reins In Quake Press Coverage « China Bystander

  3. CB

    It is telling that in reports of the official reconstruction plans, emphasis is being put on rebuilding solid schools that are quake proof.

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