Next week, it will be one year since China was shaken by a devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province. Up to 90,000 people were killed or went missing.
On Thursday at a news conference, officials released the names of 5,335 children who died, many of them in classrooms that crumbled in the quake. Previous unofficial estimates had put the number as high as 10,000.
The officials also said they found no evidence of shoddy school construction, as many residents have claimed. Parents and activists disputed the findings.
Worldfocus associate producer Hsin-Yin Lee translated several reactions posted on the Chinese-language news portal Sina:
User 1: How about the investigation over those slipshod construction projects? A year has passed. Why are our school buildings so weak? The managing department is guilty of the most heinous crime for cuasing these families great pain.
User 2: It’s appropriate that the Sichuan province released the death toll after such a long period of time — it showed respect toward the dead and the feelings of the survivors.
User 3: It is an extremely difficult task to figure out how many people have died in the massive earthquake. I am impressed by the death toll because it provided a precise number. I see respect toward every victim. I hope the dead can rest in peace.
Bloggers Bulbul Gupta and Pan Yi write that the government has been more open in the wake of the Sichuan quake than after prior natural disasters:
The progress in reconstruction is a major achievement, but there has been something else of equal significance, and that is progress in the government’s approach to disaster management. It is markedly more open than it was during major natural disasters in the 1990s, in terms of providing information about reconstruction and in terms of coordinating and cooperating with the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and community groups on disaster relief and management. The government plans to mark the one year anniversary of the earthquake, known in China as “5-12,” with events to raise public awareness about disaster preparedness.
Chinese blogger Ai Weiwei differs, challenging the government’s credibility [translation]:
The Sichuan government has destroyed itself again in front of world public […] I did not believe anything that you said today.
Michael Howe of the “Give2Asia” group writes that in the tragedy’s wake, communities came together:
The quake […] marked as a turning point for Chinese philanthropy.
Prior to the earthquake, philanthropy in China was a concept and activity relegated to the ultra wealthy within the country, and to corporate philanthropy from domestic and international businesses. However, the earthquake changed all of that – beginning with a groundswell of support from tens of millions of Chinese people from all walks of life, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid.