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Families Struggle After the Sichuan Quake

May 5, 2009

Beichuan Town after Sichuan QuakeIn the aftermath of last year’s Sichuan Earthquake, parents who lost their children face a challenging choice: to try to move on with their lives or to continue to pursue answers from a resistant government. They must decide whether to risk imprisonment for asking why the schools in the area affected were so poorly built or whether to accept payments that will allow them to rebuild in exchange for silence. In an effort to encourage the latter, the Chinese government has allowed parents who lost their only child to have another and has even provided fertility advice.

This New York Times article describes the efforts of some couples to live on without forgetting the children they lost:

Many parents, even those expecting another child, have refused to quiet down.

Here in Mianzhu, women in more than half of the 126 households that lost children in Fuxin No. 2 Primary School are pregnant or gave birth recently, according to several parents. One father, Bi Kaiwei, praised the free health care the government had provided for his wife, now more than four months pregnant. But the pregnancy is no substitute for justice, he said.

Every day, the two visit the grave of their dead daughter. They have kept all her belongings, including a stuffed white puppy and a light blanket now on the parents’ bed. Framed photographs of the girl are displayed throughout their prefabricated home just a few hundred yards from the site of the Fuxin school.

The failure of the Chinese government’s policy to stem dissent from the quake zone parallels the injustice of the one-child policy. Government regulations cannot change desires and emotions: attempts to restrict or encourage fertility according to what is convenient for a central power do not change the needs and wishes of the individual.

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