China: Clearer answers and investigation into quake response needed

Last month the Chinese government said that the process of obtaining complete information as to why so many school buildings collapsed in last month's earthquake is underway. This week it began reigning in media which have been asking too many questions, even barring grieving parents from protesting. The first attempt at providing answers came this week from the Sichuan Ministry of Education in the form of five key reasons for the number of school-related deaths, which haven't gone over well with many [zh] bloggers.

Well-known blogger-journalist and author Ran Yunfei, who lives in Chendgu, had this to say about these five points in his May 29 post, ‘How are the children wrongfully dead to be allowed to rest in peace?

当初地震部门将地震震级从7.8级修正为8级后,有位朋友说政府正在向实事求是的方向挺进。我对朋友说,你未免太轻看这个政府集体为恶的智商了,也许他们正在“科学”而有效地利用灾难找脱辞呢。我并不是个怀疑一切的人,我对活在中国的个体有相当同情之理解,但对政府却很少放弃怀疑的态度,这是几十年来频发的人祸加诸于身的惨痛教训。不轻易相信乃至质疑政府是一个现代公民的基本素质,何况一个权力大到令人惊骇的地步,视人命如草芥,根本没有真正监督的政府?你要是轻信这样的政府,那你所遭遇的一切悲惨生活,就是它对你活生生的恩赐。它这样置你于死地的“恩赐”,你不仅只有接受,你用血汗钱养活了它,反而还要你对着镜头说“感谢党,感谢政府”,它进而戴上“伟光正”的光环,使一切恶政变得不仅自然而且高尚。六十年无一例外,这次发生地震灾难后,政府不少部门的表现就是他们一惯嗜血本能的展现,其中最不能容忍就是中国教育部和四川省教育厅为他们错误的无耻辩解。

After the earthquake which was initially cast as a 7.8 was changed to an 8.0, a friend of mine said that the government is now pushing towards working with facts to seek the truth. I said to my friend, you're not giving this government enough credit for its collective IQ when it comes to being wicked, they might just now be “scientifically” and effectively using this catastrophe as a way get away with it. I'm not the kind of person who suspects everything, I have considerable sympathy and understanding for people living in China, but for the government, I rarely let go of my skeptical attitude. The repeated occurrence of man-made disasters over the past several decades have been a painful lesson personally. To not easily trust the government and to even distrust it is the basic character of modern citizenry, not to mention a power so great as to frighten those in this government which sees human life as worthless, and is subject no real supervision whatsoever. When you buy into a government like this, all misery that befalls you in life is just a favor that it's doing for you. This “favor” of putting you in such a death trap, you not only have to accept it, but you have to support it too with your sweat-and-blood-earned money, and then you still have to face the camera and say “Thank the Party, thank the government”, as it puts on the halo of “Greatness, Openness and Righteousness” to make all bad governance look not just natural but also noble. During the sixties, there wasn't a single exception to this, and now following this earthquake, the display from more than a few government departments just showed their habitual bloodthirsty instinct, the most unbearable part of which is the mistaken and shameless defense made by them for by the Chinese and Sichuan ministries of Education.

许多人看到了昨天四川省教育厅五点所谓对灾区学校倒塌的查处意见,至为愤慨。其实前天教育部新闻发言人王旭明就公开提前定下了四川省教育厅查处学校倒塌的基调。对这个政府运作方式不陌生的人,都应该从逻辑上揣度到,即四川省教育厅这样的查处基调,在震后很短时间内他们早就在内部达成了共识。而且这共识还不只是来源于教育部,应该来源于更高层对去人祸而认天灾的政治把戏。

我认为中央政府应该重建教育部,令部长周济辞职以谢国人;整顿四川省教育厅相关的官员,并对直接责任人绳之以法。不然,恐怕中央政府的公信力,将会越来越低。

Many people saw the Sichuan Ministry of Education's five points of the so-called views on the investigation into the collapsing of schools in the disaster area, and are utterly resentful of them. People who are no strangers to the way this government operates should be able to logically determine that for the Sichuan Ministry of Education to have investigated results like these, they quickly came to a common understanding in the short time following the earthquake. And this common understanding doesn't only come from the Ministry of Education, but most likely from a much higher level for which going to a human-made disaster and calling it natural is a political game.
[snip]
I feel the central government ought to rebuild the Ministry of Education, make Minister Zhou Ji resign as an apology to the nation; rectify the relevant Sichuan Education Ministry officials, and bring those directly responsible to justice. Otherwise, I'm afraid that the central government will continue to lose the public's trust.

Here are the Sichuan Education Ministry's five concluding points as they've been getting spread around online and as posted by Ran Yunfei, slightly shorter than the official version as they've stripped of bureaucratese and rephrased clearly:

  一、这次地震首先是超过了预计强度,学校校舍抗震难以抵御如此强烈的地震。

  二、灾情发生在上课期间,集体伤亡人数比较多。

  三、学生上课时集中在教室,楼面负荷大,疏散时又集中在楼梯间,这些走廊、楼梯相对来说是建筑比较薄弱的,所以造成了一定的损害。

  四、根据四川省教育行政部门提交的材料,四川省倒塌的相当多的校舍建筑时间比较长,校舍陈旧落后,这也是导致部分校舍垮塌的重要原因。

  五、学校的建筑在抗震方面本身就存在着设计方面的先天性缺陷。

1. This earthquake, first of all, surpassed the forecasted intensity, so it was hard for the schools to withstand so strong an earthquake.

2. The disaster struck during class time, so the numbers of collective casualties was quite high.

3. During class time, students were gathered inside classrooms, so there was a large burden on the floors, and during evacuation again they were gathered within the stairwell, and these corridors and stairwells were relatively weak parts of the buildings, so this created definite harm.

4. According to information supplied by Sichuan Education Ministry administrators, quite a few of the school buildings which collapsed in Sichuan province were built quite a long time ago, so the schools were old and unmaintained, and this is a major factor leading to the collapse of some schools.

5. Inherent defects existed in the designs of the school buildings themselves with respect to earthquake resistance.

The transcript of a talk given on May 31st by legal scholar and active blogger He Weifang has been posted to message board website Paowang. In it He focuses on the role of the Procuratorate, the Chinese version of the American Attorney General's Office, should be playing in the legal and administrative aftermath of the earthquake, seeing it as the most suitable body to provide that degree of oversight.

He makes several points to that effect, starting off with calling for the need for the Procuratorate to be ensured independence as it carries out its work in, among many things, overseeing compensation given to parents to children lost in the earthquake, transparency as those responsible for things like the ‘tofu dregs’ construction of school buildings are sought out, seeing that the practice doesn't continue as new houses and buildings are constructed, and at the same time, ensuring those eventually brought to trial are guaranteed a fair trial and not one aimed at placating an angry public.

The key suggestion He makes however, is the activation now of article 71 of China's constitution, which he says has never been put into effect:

第四点,我回应一下,我觉得目前是不是也应该启动一下特别调查制度。我们国家没有一个超然的、中立的、公开的机构,来对这样一个大事进行调查,我觉得四川的大地震应当马上由全国人大设立特别调查委员会,宪法第71条明确规定人大可以设立这样的委员会,因为它是一个非常综合性的问题,包括地震预报,到底预报没预报,如果已经有了这样一个确定的结论,最后不公开,谁的责任?包括房子的质量问题,包括其他的赈灾过程中出现的问题,我觉得需要有一个委员会来进行一种非常公开、透明、权威、超然的调查。但是我们的宪法第71条存在20多年了,到现在一次都没有启动过。2003年孙志刚事件的时候,许志永他们提出违宪审查制度,但到现在26年时间过去了,我们这个特别调查委员会从来就没有启动过,所以我们说它是一个“睡美人”。

The fourth point, coming back to what I mentioned earlier, is wondering whether at present a special investigation system need be set up. Our country has no detached, neutral or open institution to carry out an investigation into such a large matter as this, and I feel that the National People's Congress ought to immediately establish a special investigation committee for the Sichuan Great Earthquake. Article 71 of the Constitution clearly stipulates that the NPC can set up these kinds of committees, and because this is an extremely comprehensives problem, including earthquake predictions, whether or not one was made, and if a definite conclusion on this has already been made, but not made public, who will be responsible? This includes the problem of housing quality and includes other problems which have appeared in the process of the relief effort, so I think there needs to be a committee to carry out a sort of extremely open, transparent, authoritative and independent investigation. But article 71 of our Constitution has existed already for more than 20 years, but until now has never once been activated. In 2003 during the Sun Zhigang incident, Xu Zhiyong and others brought up the unconstitutionality of the censorship system, but 26 years have now gone by and a special investigation committee has yet to have ever been set up, which is why we call it a “sleeping beauty.”

25 comments

  • My goodness. .”clearer answers” can only be attain thru extensive investigation, which takes considerable amount of time. those destructive critism by netizens are irrational.

  • Ben

    Thanks for the good post and excellent translation. Some study in Thick-Black is needed to fully appreciate this issue and comments from certain individuals.

  • karze

    50% of the deaths in earth quake death are the result of corruption, nepotism, lack of openness and authoritarian nature of the regime.

    Unless communism collapses in China the truth will never come out as officials do not want to take themselves responsibility for the death.

    Of course why should they, when they torture and and kill people at the slightest of charges most of which are just a fiction not more real than harry porter reality.

  • chan

    karze,
    You are really a Master of “Cause and effect” !!! You are really better that Newton who discovered the law of gravity, when an aple dropped onto his head. Newton’s Law-Action equal to reaction :-) :-0

  • chan

    knights,
    What type of “prawn” is Karze over here ?A proven “Druken Prawn” like to loose his memory.. :-):-)

  • Knights

    Chan, respond to your comment about K, he’s a schidzo prawn/puppet, hahahahaha, you are hilarious :-D

  • chan

    I really like the idea of using “prawn” :-)

  • Hey, did you guys just get blocked? I have to use proxies to access anything at globalvoicesonline all of a sudden.

  • Knights

    I did not get blocked lately.

  • Knights

    I agree with Liang,
    June 4; FU! and go burn in hell! JK is indeed a SOB.

    If you are so dumb that you can not tell what these abbrev. are go look up webster.

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