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Page last updated at 05:33 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 06:33 UK

China quake parents 'harassed'

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Juyuan Middle School just after the earthquake
Parents want to re-visit the schools where their children died

Parents who lost their children in China's earthquake fear they will not be allowed to properly commemorate the disaster's first anniversary.

Many parents want to return to the site of the schools in Sichuan that killed their children when they collapsed.

But the authorities have previously stopped them going to the schools on sensitive occasions, and are said to be monitoring the parents ahead of 12 May.

China has not said how many children were among the 90,000 dead and missing.

The government has admitted that nearly 14,000 schools - some of them poorly or hastily built - were damaged in the magnitude-8 earthquake.

Schools sealed off

One mother, Hu Hongfang, wants to return to Juyuan Middle School to mark the first anniversary of the death of her 15-year-old son Guo Jun.

But she is not hopeful that she will be allowed to get to the collapsed school site, in the city of Dujiangyan in northern Sichuan Province.

"On every occasion parents have wanted to pay their respects to their children, the whole school and nearby area have been sealed off," she said.

Other parents told the BBC a similar story.

Zhou Siqiang, whose daughter died at the Juyuan school, said parents have been prevented from visiting the site on a number of occasions.

Children outside Juyuan Middle School before the earthquake
There is still no official report about why so many schoolchildren died

He said they were stopped from going to the site on last month's Tomb Sweeping Day, when Chinese people traditionally visit family graves.

But he was undeterred. "I think I will join others and go to the school on the first anniversary of the earthquake," he said.

Across Dujiangyan, parents at another collapsed school detailed some of the methods used by the authorities to prevent them from staging public displays of grief.

These includes stopping them from leaving their homes and taking them away from the city during sensitive times.

Seeking answers

These parents, whose children died at Xinjian Primary School, say they fear the same will happen on the earthquake's first anniversary.

The local government and police did not want to immediately comment on the parents' claims.

But the man who runs a cemetery where many of the Xinjian schoolchildren are buried confirmed that there is a special team monitoring the parents.

Chen Hua, who works at Baoshanta Cemetery, told the BBC that the special "work team" was attached to the local police station.

Amnesty International this week released a report saying the authorities continued to intimidate and detain parents who had lost children in the earthquake.

It is particularly targeting parents who are still seeking answers about why so many schools collapsed during the earthquake, the rights group said.

"The government of China must cease harassing earthquake survivors who are seeking answers and trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives," said Amnesty International's Roseann Rife.

Parents who spoke to the BBC do not expect that to happen.



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