Friday, June 27, 2008

U.N. Forum Highlights Sichuan Quake Mismanagement

700 Chinese participate live via the Internet
Jun 17, 2008

Forum speakers: former Tiananmen Square Student Movement leader Jian Zhang, Dr Shizhong Chen, forum facilitator Dr. Charles Graves (left to right). (The Epoch Times)
Forum speakers: former Tiananmen Square Student Movement leader Jian Zhang, Dr Shizhong Chen, forum facilitator Dr. Charles Graves (left to right). (The Epoch Times)

"Access roads between the catastrophically hit areas are largely passable."

"According to military propaganda, helicopters were available for service under all weather conditions, but they hesitated to deploy them."

"Announcing the impending event could have prevented much disaster, but information was suppressed."

"House-church Christians collected donations, but their acts of compassion landed them in detention. The money was confiscated and the Good Samaritans were accused of 'doing illegal business.'"

This is what approximately 700 Mainland Chinese heard on June 11, to their astonishment, as they watched the UN forum "Earthquake Mismanagement in China" broadcast over the internet. A California NGO had extended this invitation, supported by "Interfaith International" whose chairperson, Dr. Charles Graves, facilitated.

Two Eye-Witnesses from Sichuan

The above statements come from two eye-witnesses from the Sichuan earthquake area. One, Dr. Xiao Fan, is a hydraulic engineer; the other, Zuoren Tan, is an environmental activist. They set aside fear of reprisal from the authorities and made themselves available for a telephone interview with The Epoch Times . Their interviews were presented to the international listening audience, in Chinese with English translation. They throw critical light on the much tauted "good earthquake management" Chinese state-media have consistently reported.

Zuoren Tan regards the regime primarily responsible for the immense damage caused by the quake. He asks uncomfortable questions such as: "Who suppressed pre-warning information of the impending quake? If technical errors can be ruled out, then who is responsible?" And "Why were the many recorded signs that an earthquake was about to happen officially ignored?"

Tan urges the listeners to consider the regime's well-known "white vest" image arguments: many Chinese from Mianyang went to neighboring Beichuan the day of the quake, to aid their friends and families. This means that roads were open. The cities are less than an hour from one another, traffic was flowing smoothly, and the road showed only minor damage in a few places. But official help was nowhere to be seen.

Police did not arrive until 7:00 p.m. the day after the quake, and they came without useful aid or the needed heavy equipment.

Tan says that it was only 72 hours later that the military turned up. Their first act was to send away all the citizens who had come to help, ordering them behind cordons. Over 1,000 military personnel arrived in Beichuan, he says, but no more than a dozen were permitted to help with recovery efforts, and then only for 7-8 hours. "But the regime-controlled media all over China portrayed them in glorious lights," cries Tan, "it was just an attempt to make the regime shine!"

Jian Zhang interviewed two eye-witnesses of the Sichuan quake; next to him, forum facilitator Dr. Charles Graves listens. (left to right) (The Epoch Times)
Jian Zhang interviewed two eye-witnesses of the Sichuan quake; next to him, forum facilitator Dr. Charles Graves listens. (left to right) (The Epoch Times)

Schools in Rubble While Other Buildings Stand

Dr. Xiao and Tan had visited more than ten destroyed schools in the first ten days after May 12, when the quake struck. They said they had seen schools that were built between 1998 and 2003 completely destroyed. According to their findings, private and official structures close to the destroyed schools suffered little damage.

Tan refers to the regime's official version: "No mistakes were made during construction of the schools." Though he raises the question, "If this was not shabby construction, why were the schools destroyed?" No official response has been forthcoming. Tan also wonders why the authorities have acted against parents seeking and complaining for answers.

Local residents feel even more strongly, and have taken to the streets about it. A protest banner strung across the street nearby one of the schools reads: "Our children did not die from the earthquake, but from the collapse of shabbily constructed schools." Tan says "If the Chinese regime won't find those responsible, we must call an independent international commission to look into corruption."

Dr. Xiao wonders whether a dam built in a geologically unstable area in 2004 could have been the source of the quake. Prior to 2004, earthquakes in the area never registered higher than 6.5, but this one measured 8 on the Richter scale. "Chinese scientists have historically made accurate earthquake predictions, though even in the 1976 Tangshan quake warnings were not officially released." Back then, people in Qinglong County escaped because of a cadre gave them forewarning.

"But this time," Dr. Xiao says, "the nation became victim to her own suppressed pre-warnings. "

Christians Arrested for Collecting Donations

Jian Zhang, 1 one of the student leaders at Tiananmen Square in 1989, also spoke at the forum. Zhang is president of the French chapter of the Alliance for a Democratic China. He had recently become a Christian and talked about the actions taken against Christians in China during the earthquake's aftermath. Christian Jiu Xiuxiang and priest Lu Zhaojun had collected donations of up to 40,000 € (about $45,000) for the earthquake victims. But the police confiscated all the cash and refused to issue a receipt, instead arresting the two, Zhang said. "These are two of the six known incidents so far where house-church Christians who had been Good Samaritans for the quake victims became victims themselves."

The story of Emperor Cheng Tang
At the time of the Shang Dynasty (1562 - 1066 BCE) the empire saw a huge drought under emperor Cheng Tang's rule, lasting seven years. The emperor consulted an oracle, who said that to appease the gods and receive their help, a human being must be sacrificed. The Emperor responded that it was his duty to save lives, so how could he sacrifice one? But he thought that if a sacrifice was necessary, he would make himself the sacrificial offering. Then he prayed in the open air to the gods. He examined his political and personal life, and examined himself for where his faults lay. It did not take long for a deluge to cover the whole

He concluded with a comment about the Chinese Olympic slogan, "One world, one dream," that "It seems not all Chinese dream the same dream."

But he holds fast to his own dream of a democratic China soon becoming a reality. Though he remarked that one dream, freedom of the press, is already over before the games have begun.

Zhang also fielded questions from the audience. One person asked about the possibility of truthful reporting, and got a frustrated reply: "For the past two to three weeks we have seen new regulations for foreign journalists that state 'no write-ups dealing with earthquake predictions, no inquiries into school building construction, and no reports about donations!'"

Another person asked about those responsible, and the question hung in the room. Zhang responded with a story: "As early as the time of the dynasties, Emperors had the good sense to find reasons for catastrophes in their own conduct, and begged the gods for forgiveness. The story of Emperor Cheng Tang who reigned in around 1,000 BCE is one example."

"Many a Chinese might have had similar thoughts," he said with a sigh, "though they don't dare to speak of it."

1: Jian Zhang was one of the student leaders at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989. He greeted the soldiers who wanted to ban the students from the square with these words: "If you want to get to them, you have to shoot me first." The military wounded him severely with a pistol shot. He left the bullet in his leg as a constant reminder. He has lived in Paris for many years and currently works for democracy in China.

Click here to read the original article in Chinese

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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