World

China detains man who criticized quake relief and school construction

Chinese police have detained a retired teacher who wrote articles for a U.S.-based website critcizing the construction quality of schools that collapsed in last month's calamitous earthquake, a human rights group says.

Retired teacher wrote articles for U.S.-based website, human rights group says

A retired teacher in China's Sichuan province who criticized the construction quality of schools that collapsed in last month's powerful earthquake has been arrested for his outspokenness, a Hong Kong-based human rights organization said Wednesday.

Police detained Zeng Hongling in Sichuan's capital, Chengdu, on charges of "inciting state subversion," according to the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Zeng wrote three articles for a Chinese-language website based in the United States that said that many of the schools that collapsed in the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan were shoddily built, and that the deaths of hundreds of children might have been prevented with proper construction.

The series of articles, titled My Personal Experience in the Earthquake, appeared on www.ObserveChina.com. One article, titled "Earthquake relief efforts fully reveal the true face of party officials," questions the role of Sichuan officials in relief efforts.

School collapses have become one of the most heated issues in the earthquake recovery process and one that local Communist leaders seem anxious to suppress.

Authorities mum on arrest reports

China's government-controlled media have largely ignored the topic, and parents and volunteers who have questioned authorities have been detained and threatened.

Zeng, 56, used to teach at the Southwest University of Science and Technology in Mianyang, and was being held in the city after being detained on June 9 in Chengdu, the Hong Kong human rights groups said.

Attempts by the Associated Press to contact police in Sichuan produced no comment on the case.

A man who answered the telephone at the Mianyang public security bureau said officials did not know about the case. He refused to give his name. Telephones rang unanswered at the university.

Zeng's detention comes after Chinese dissident Huang Qi, who ran a human rights website and wrote about parents who had lost their children in the quake, was detained in Chengdu last week on charges of possessing state secrets.

Rain hinders quake relief

In related news, a moderate earthquake jolted China's northwest on Wednesday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Also Wednesday, a Red Cross official warned that heavy summer rain could hinder the delivery of aid to quake victims. Summer is China's peak rainy season, and severe floods in the country's southeast this week have already killed dozens of people.

"The rain will not facilitate the distribution of assistance, and it will not facilitate the reconstruction phase either," said Carl Naucler of  the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Medium to heavy rain is forecast in the next few days for Sichuan — the province hit hardest by the May 12 quake, which killed almost 70,000 people and left five million homeless.

With files from the Associated Press

now