Tag Archives: School construction

Quake-Flattened Sichuan Schools Were Shoddily Built – Official

An official has at last admitted what many parents in Sichuan have believed since the devastating May 12th earthquake: that schools that collapsed could have done so because of shoddy construction and inferior materials.

The admission has weight as it comes from Ma Zongjin, a geologist who chairs the technical committee set up to investigate the quake. “In recent years, a lot of school buildings have been built in China and in this process of rapid development, some problems may exist,” Ma said Beijing. “The structure of the school buildings may not be reasonable enough and the related construction materials may not be strong enough.” Here via Xinhua.

The issue has become a sensitive political matter, with parents of dead children staging protests to demand investigations into why schools collapsed even though nearby buildings were left standing, and officials trying to brush the protests under the rubble. Whether Ma’s comments leads to local and provincial officials being held accountable is a moot point.

The committee also said that the damage to property amounted to $123 billion, and that 18,000 people still missing were unlikely to have survived. That would take the death toll to 88,000.

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Filed under Politics & Society, Sichuan earthquake

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.

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Filed under Media, Politics & Society, Sichuan earthquake