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Grieving Chinese Parents Wait for Answers about Shoddy Schools


Last year's earthquake took away Xie Yongfu's only child, his 17-year-old son.

"We're just farmers. He was my only hope. Now, I've lost him," he said.

After the May 12 earthquake, Xie didn't sleep for three days. He was busy digging through the rubble of the collapsed Dongqi High School, with his bare hands, to find his son.

Yao Yunbing's 17-year-old daughter went to the same school. The building that collapsed on top of her and her classmates was built in the 1970s.

"It's all just brick and concrete slabs. It looked old, so the school just put some tiles on the outside to make it look new, but it was just a surface improvement. After the earthquake, it was just flattened. It was as if the roof, four stories up, dropped to the floor," says Yunbing.

Yao only has one photo of his daughter. He does not even remember where or when it was taken.

He says parents like him have questioned the government about the poor construction of the school buildings, but so far have received no answers.

Senior Sichuan province official Wei Hong told reporters in Beijing authorities do care about the parents.

"The party and the government pay close attention and special concern to the parents who lost their children, especially to their life, their employment and ability to reproduce, and also their psychological relief. We try our best to solve all the problems that the parents face," he said.

Wang Chunxi's 17-year-old daughter also went to Dongqi High School. He is illiterate, so he strongly encouraged his daughter to pursue education as a way out of the countryside.

"I didn't find her corpse. I went to the school every day, and helped dig," he said.

The quake also left a deep mark on Wang's wife. At first, she was inconsolable with grief. Then, she protested and was taken into police custody a few times. Now, her mind has become so disturbed she is in a mental hospital.

Xie Yongfu still misses his son.

"When I think about it, I want to cry, but there are no tears," he said.

At the same time, he is ready, not to forget, but to move on. His wife is pregnant again and due to give birth in July. He is building a new house, on the site of his old house. And he points to one of his most prized possessions, the orchid his son planted a few years ago.

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