Page last updated at 14:05 GMT, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 15:05 UK

China holds national day of mourning for quake dead

China in mourning across the country

China has observed a national day of mourning for victims of the powerful earthquake in Qinghai province.

Flags flew at half mast across the country and public entertainment was curtailed as a mark of respect, one week after the quake hit.

The official death toll from the 6.9-magnitude tremor has now reached 2,039.

Tens of thousands of people were left homeless by the earthquake, and relief supplies have been pouring into the worst-hit area around Jiegu town.

Another 175 people are still missing since the earthquake and more than 12,000 are injured, the state news agency Xinhua reports.

Screen grab of China Daily website
Many news websites ran black mastheads to mark the mourning

The BBC Quentin Sommerville in Beijing says public entertainment, including some television channels, was suspended nationwide while cinemas, karaoke bars and internet cafes were closed.

The 24-hour ban extended online, with music and film websites suspended. The biggest websites and newspaper mastheads turned black or grey for the day.

President Hu Jintao led the country's top leaders in observing a three-minute silence, which was broadcast on state TV.

"For our countrymen who have suffered from the earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai, let us mourn in silence," he said.

'Brighter tomorrow'

In the Qinghai provincial capital Xining, thousands of mourners dressed in black stood silently for three minutes as light snow fell. Car horns and sirens blared throughout the city.

Rescuers workers pay their respects to the vicitims of last week's earthquake
Rescuer workers paused in Jiegu to observe the silence

"The earthquake showed no mercy, but we have love," said Qiang Wei, the provincial Communist Party secretary.

"Let us wipe our tears off and strive to meet a brighter tomorrow and let a more beautiful, wealthy and socialist Yushu stand on the vast Tibetan Plateau."

Tens of thousands of people are now living in temporary shelters or tents in freezing overnight temperatures.

The officials have warned that temperatures in the Himalayan plateau region are expected to fall further.

Aid has been arriving in large amounts in the region, with convoys of trucks reportedly backed up for miles along the highway from Xining.

Some schools have also reopened, although where school buildings have collapsed lessons have had to be held in tents.

Danzeng Jiangcuo, a maths teacher at Yushu No.3 Elementary School, said students were receiving psychological care as well as their usual lessons.

"We are trying to help them forget the disaster and not feel scared anymore," he told Xinhua.

Emergency teams are continuing to dig through the rubble in and around Jiegu in Yushu County, close to the epicentre of the quake.

Hopes of finding more people were raised on Monday by the rescue of three people who had survived nearly a week under the ruins of buildings.

A four-year-old girl and an elderly woman were rescued from a house near Jiegu and later in the day, a woman in her 30s was pulled alive from her home.

President Hu, who visited Jiegu at the weekend, has promised an all-out effort to rebuild the region.

Going home

Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns have been heavily involved in the emergency operation, working alongside the army and other rescue workers, digging through the rubble for survivors, distributing aid and collecting bodies for holding funerals.

Michael Bristow
By Michael Bristow, BBC News Beijing

There is no doubting the sorrow felt by Chinese people about the Qinghai earthquake. Officials, rescuers and ordinary people were genuinely moved as they stood in silence on a day of mourning.

People have donated millions of dollars to the relief effort - a true sign of how much they care. The authorities have allowed the media to report in full this public show of grief for those who died, most of whom were Tibetans.

Senior Chinese leaders will perhaps be hoping this response will help improve relations between Beijing and its Tibetan population. That relationship has been strained since unrest in Tibetan areas in March 2008. Jia Qinglin, a member of the Chinese Communist Party's all-powerful politburo standing committee, said as much. He said China needs to emphasise unity and stability in the earthquake area, as well as carry out relief work.

But there were reports that some monks had been told to go home and leave rescue work to the government.

Yixi Luoren, who heads a monastery in Sichuan province, said 120 of the 150 monks he had travelled with had gone home following a telephone call from the authorities.

"The authorities didn't tell us the reason, but we assume they might have worried that there are too many people there and wanted us to come home safely," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

Ninety-seven percent of Yushu's population is ethnic Tibetan. The Tibetan plateau has in the past been the scene of ethnic conflict.

However, the state media has portrayed the response to the quake as proof of underlying ethnic harmony.

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, had asked to return to Qinghai to comfort the victims.

He was born in Qinghai province but has not set foot in China since a failed Tibetan uprising more than 50 years ago.

Our correspondent says that while he is loved by China's Tibetans, he is hated by the Chinese government, which regards him as a separatist. The government has ignored his request.

At a government meeting on Monday, China's top parliamentary advisor, Jia Qinglin, warned of "hostile forces from abroad working to cause disruptions and sabotage" in the quake's aftermath, the Associated Press reports.

He did not specifically mention the Dalai Lama but he and his supporters are often referred to as "hostile forces" by the Communist government.

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