Sophie Richardson on the Chinese Earthquake

Sophie RichardsonIn her article How Not to Respond to an Earthquake, published on the Daily Beast, Sophie Richardson, author of China, Cambodia, and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, looks at how the Chinese government could best respond to the recent earthquake in Qinghai Province.

While Richardson notes that the latest earthquake will probably see a similar outpouring of civic activism that took place after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, other responses by the Chinese government are best avoided. Specifically, she laments the lack of rigorous investigations into allegations of shoddy construction of buildings, particularly schools, which led to the deaths of so many children. Likewise, many activists and journalists were forcibly silenced when they inquired too deeply into corruption.

Richardson concludes by suggesting a more appropriate response from the Chinese government

The right way to respond to the Qinghai quake is undoubtedly to focus on the rescue of survivors and recovery of those who died. But essential to those goals are free access to information, regardless of whether it portrays the government in a good or bad light, and regardless of whether that information is sought by a Chinese activist or a foreign correspondent. Rather than suppress demands for accountability, the government should embrace them, partly because doing so might mitigate or prevent suffering when the next natural disaster strikes. And, ultimately, what better way is there to honor the lives lost in Qinghai today and Sichuan in 2008 than by freeing those imprisoned for trying to uncover the truth—and to allow the truth, however painful it may be to the government, to emerge, unfettered—and now?

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