Chinese authorities detain a mother for 'revealing state secrets' after she made microblog posts about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
A memorial wreath among the rubble of Juyuan Middle School's collapsed classrooms in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, May 20, 2008.
Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan detained a mother whose child was killed under a collapsed school building in the devastating 2008 earthquake after she posted information about parents' campaigns for compensation to a popular Twitter-like service.
Zhou Xingrong, whose child died in the collapse of the Juyuan Middle School in Sichuan's Dujiangyan city, near Chengdu, on May 12, 2008, said she was taken away by police on Wednesday and held for nine hours, tied to a chair.
After she fainted several times, police transferred her to a nearby detention center.
"They tormented me in the interview room from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.," Zhou said. "I fainted several times."
During her detention, Zhou was shown a document charging her with "revealing state secrets," although she wasn't allowed to keep a copy, she said in an interview after her release on Thursday.
"I was sitting there in the [police station] interview room, and they charged me," Zhou said. "They [said they could] haul me in or let me be, and that they would haul me in if I didn't behave myself."
"If I did behave myself, they would cut me some slack," she said.
She said police had linked the charges to various posts she had made on a popular microblogging platform about the struggle by parents who lost children in the earthquake to receive compensation that had already been promised by the authorities.
The posts also included certain "secret documents," police told Zhou, and also pointed to her previous contact with the Sichuan-based Tianwang rights website, run by activist Huang Qi, as evidence of previous "law-breaking," she said.
Parents of thousands of schoolchildren killed in the earthquake have been harassed and detained by police after they tried to sue the government over allegations of shoddy construction in local schools, and lawyers across China have been warned not to take any cases.
They have also met with official harassment following long-running attempts to claim compensation they say is owed them under the government's quake reconstruction plan.
The government says it has poured 787.1 billion yuan (U.S $120 billion) in reconstruction funds into the region since the devastating earthquake killed more than 80,000 people on May 12, 2008, and that reconstruction work in Sichuan is "basically complete."
A group of 26 parents from four schools in the area were detained in Chengdu after they traveled to petition at China's annual parliamentary meetings in Beijing last month, according to a Juyuan Middle School parent surnamed Zhao.
Zhao said that two or three other local parent activists had been detained in addition to Zhou while the group was away.
The petitioning group had only just now been released, Zhao said in an interview on Thursday.
Meanwhile, parent activists in nearby Deyang county said more than 10 of their number were now being held under house arrest after they protested outside local government offices at unpaid wages and the termination of their post-quake reconstruction jobs.
"If we try to protest, they send people from the local police station to suppress it," said a parent activist in Deyang county's Shifang city surnamed Fan.
"We can't leave the house...They are watching us all the time," he said. "Some of us are trapped in our homes, more than 10 of us."
"They are afraid we will go to the provincial government [and protest]," said Fan, who lost his child in the collapse of Shifang's Luoshui Middle School.
A fellow Luoshui activist surnamed Feng said the local township government had terminated many of the parents' jobs under quake reconstruction plans in April, and hadn't paid out any of their salaries since the beginning of the year.
Feng said the unpaid wages and lack of work had come as a major blow to many quake-hit families.
"From the end of March onwards, that 550 yuan (U.S.$87) a month won't be coming in," he said. "Now that it's gone, they should really find other jobs for us; it doesn't matter what they are."
An official who answered the phone at the Luoshui township government denied that any petitioners were being held under police surveillance.
However, he confirmed that the quake victims were about to lose their jobs.
"The public interest posts should have been terminated a year ago," the official said. "Now they are being terminated ... and the government is doing its best to arrange alternatives for those who want to work ... in particular the more elderly and vulnerable members of the population."
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.