BEIJING, May 12 – China Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake which killed more than 80,000 but some said questions remained over the thousands of children who died as their schools collapsed.
The 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern province of Sichuan on the afternoon of May 12, 2008, with its epicentre at Wenchuan county. Another 4.45 million were hurt in China’s worst quake in more than three decades.
The mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily, praised government efforts towards reconstruction but outspoken Internet commentators remembered the thousands of children who died.
“It’s the fifth anniversary of the earthquake as well as Mother’s Day. Hard to forget those young faces lying under the school buildings,” said Fengguo De Wuhou 1117 on a microblog.
“Five years and the promise to thoroughly investigate the ‘tofu-built’ projects in the quake area still lingers around the ears,” said the posting, using a Chinese phrase for shoddy construction.
Thousands of children died and 7,000 schools were badly damaged in the earthquake, triggering accusations of poor construction and corruption, especially as some other buildings nearby remained standing.
Calls for transparency from the government on how many students were killed led to beatings and arrests of activists, including dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
Ai on Sunday tweeted a link to his work “Remembrance”, voice recordings of people reading the names of students who died in the earthquake, which he puts at more than 5,000 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFHrRLEy5yI).
Ai was badly beaten by police when he tried to testify in support of activist Tan Zuoren, who had investigated the school buildings.
The state-run People’s Daily newspaper called the earthquake a “grave catastrophe” but said the recovery was a symbol of China’s strength.
“In less than three years, the Wenchuan disaster zone has completed the task of reconstruction with impressive speed,” the newspaper said in a front-page commentary.
“To achieve a new victory of building a prosperous society, this is the best way to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake,” it said.
The China Daily newspaper said the country had learned lessons from the disaster as schools and hospitals were able to withstand another quake in the region last month.
That 6.6-magnitude tremor centred in Sichuan’s Lushan county killed 196 people, with 21 missing and more than 13,000 injured, according to state media.