Court In China Rejects Earthquake Lawsuit
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
A court in China's Sichuan province has refused to hear a lawsuit brought against local officials by the parents of school children who were killed in the May 12th earthquake. The children were among 88,000 people who died or went missing in the magnitude 7.9 quake. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.
ANTHONY KUHN: On December 1st, a group of about 60 parents filed a lawsuit at a municipal court in Deyang City. The lawsuit alleges corruption and negligence on the part of the Fuxin town government, the education department, and a construction company, all of which, parents say, led to the collapse of the Fuxin No. 2 primary school. The government says that 129 children were killed in the school's collapse. The parents want an official apology and compensation. But today, parents' representatives told the Associated Press that the court refused to hear the case.
As recently as September, Chinese government experts have verbally acknowledged that shoddy construction, including the use of unreinforced concrete beams, led to the collapse of many schools in the quake zone, but no official results from the experts' investigation have been made public so far. The rejection today of the lawsuit is another signal that local governments are determined to block any avenues of legal recourse for the bereaved parents. Some parents say that officials have threatened and cajoled them into signing documents accepting compensation. The documents also stated that the earthquake was a natural disaster, thereby absolving the government of any responsibility in the school children's deaths. Police have detained other parents and warned them against speaking to reporters about their cases. The Chinese media have been barred from reporting on the school issue and have instead focused on government rebuilding efforts. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News Beijing.