China is marking the first anniversary of a huge earthquake in southwestern Sichuan province. The grief is still fresh, for family and friends of the more than 80,000 people who were killed or went missing. Meanwhile, parents who lost their children still wait for answers from the government about shoddy school building construction.
The mournful notes of a lone horn player sounded over Yingxiu, a town near the epicenter of the earthquake that struck in the afternoon of May 12, 2008.
President praises quake response
Following a silent tribute to the tens of thousands of victims, Chinese President Hu Jintao said the disaster brought the country together.
Hu praised the leadership of the Communist Party, the central government and the Central Military Commission, for getting the party, the military and the people to work together.
He says China's response to the earthquake included the fastest rescue and largest-scale mobilization in the country's history.
To commemorate the event, China has made May 12 "Disaster Prevention and Reduction Day." The official Xinhua News Agency says disaster relief drills were held nationwide.
Early warning system in development
China is also working on developing an earthquake detection system, although officials say such an early-warning system is only in its experimental stage.
The most politically sensitive issue remains the more than 5,300 students who died when their school buildings collapsed. Parents allege that corruption and mismanagement led to shoddy construction. Although they have tried to petition or sue local and central government authorities, many complainers have been detained or warned against speaking out.
Shoddy construction led to collapse
Yao Yunbing lost his 17-year-old daughter when her high school collapsed. He says the building was sub-standard.
Yao says her school building was made of brick and concrete slabs. He says authorities just put tile on the outside to make it look new, but that, after the quake, the four-story building was flattened.
Another father, Xie Yongfu, lost his 17-year-old son at the same school. He says his son was his only hope.
Xie says whenever he thinks about the loss, he wants to cry.
Xie is no activist because his boss told him not to get involved in protest activities. He also has been busy getting on with his life. His wife is already pregnant again and he is building a new house on the site of his old house.