Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Beichuan, China - Pilgrims flock to disaster site, opportunists seek profit and the government hopes for stability

James Reynolds is the BBC's Beijing correspondent. The following excerpts and video have been been compiled from his most recent article, published at his BBC blog.

"I've just been down to Sichuan to see what things are like a year after the earthquake which killed more than 85,000 people...."


The Sichuan earthquake has now taken a prominent place in this national story. The government's response was portrayed as quick and compassionate. The Premier, Wen Jiabao, was cast as the noble hero - the leader who cried with the bereaved and who promised that fallen towns would one day rise again.

This is the official legend of the earthquake. It's what ordinary Chinese people are told - and it's probably what most of them genuinely believe as well.

On a hilltop overlooking the ruins of the town of Beichuan, hundreds of Chinese tourists now queue up to buy pieces of this legend. Vendors sell picture books and DVDs of the disaster, incense and candles to be placed on memorials.

But these tourists know almost nothing of the parents' story. Since early June 2008, the Communist Party has banned the Chinese media from covering the parents' campaign.

Over the last year, local officials have harassed, sometimes even attacked the parents in an effort to keep them quiet.

Click here to access Reynolds full article @ his BBC blog.