Wednesday, July 2, 2008

B Raman heads up on July 6, Torch alert: demos in Bejing?

Paper no. 2754


World Tibet Day: Need to be Alert on July 6
By B. Raman

Members of the Tibetan diaspora all over world observe two important anniversaries.

2. They observe March 10 every year as the Tibetan Uprising Day to mark the anniversary of the day in 1959 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama crossed over from Tibet into India after the collapse of the Tibetan revolt against the Chinese. Generally, this anniversary passes off peacefully, but this year, being the year of the Beijing Olympics, it took a dramatic turn with widespread demonstrations and incidents of violence in Lhasa and other Tibetan-inhabited areas of China. The resulting unrest continued for some weeks before the Chinese authorities were able to bring it under control. A few days after the event, some Tibetan girls living in New Delhi managed to forcibly enter the Chinese Embassy after breaking the security cordon of the police and created anxious moments for the police and the staff of the Embassy.

3. The Tibetans all over the world observe July 6 every year as the World Tibet Day to mark the birth anniversary of His Holiness. Usually, the observance is peaceful with photo exhibitions, films and talks. The observance of the World Tibet Day started in 1998 at the initiative of some American friends of the Dalai Lama with three objectives in view, namely: to create an annual worldwide event to help restore essential freedoms for those living in Tibet; to increase global awareness of the genocidal threats to the Tibetan people; and, to celebrate the unique beauty and value of Tibetan culture and thought.

4. The US-based Free Tibet Movement has issued instructions for the observance of the "World Tibet Day" on July 6, 2008, in a similar manner as in the previous years. Since this year's World Tibet Day falls just a month before the Beijing Olympics, it would be necessary for the police force responsible for physical security outside the Chinese diplomatic mission in Delhi and consular missions in Mumbai and Kolkata to be extra vigilant to prevent the possibility of any incident similar to what happened in New Delhi in March last.

5. One should not rule out the possibility of fresh demonstrations in Tibet, where the public mood is still sullen

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:

Dalai Clique slapped by Cadre: Cadre winces

Jul 2, 6:32 AM (ET)

The report from China Sichuan is that the goons are roaming int he ten cities to enforce the zero tolerance for protests, mourning, demands, any sort of human response to the deaths of thousand of children in badly built schools. And that there will be no active investigation. And that the zero tolerance is not in spite of the Olympic Torch but because of it.


BEIJING (AP) - China's Communist Party boss in Tibet delivered a fresh attack on the Dalai Lama Wednesday, even as envoys of the region's exiled leader met for a second day with Chinese officials for talks aimed at easing tensions following anti-government riots.
The official Tibet Daily quoted hardliner Zhang Qingli as saying that supporters of the Dalai Lama were behind the violence that began with deadly rioting in Tibet's capital Lhasa on March 14 and quickly spread throughout Tibetan areas of western China.
"The March 14 incident was a seriously violent criminal incident by the Dalai clique. The organized and orchestrated incident was created by Tibetan separatists after long-term preparation, with the support and instigation of Western hostile forces," Zhang was quoted as saying.
He said the violence was timed for the run-up to next month's Summer Olympics in Beijing.
"At a sensitive moment, they harbored the evil intention of turning the incident into a bloodbath, of disrupting the Beijing Olympics and destroying Tibet's stability and political harmony," Zhang said.
The remarks, which echo earlier Chinese accusations about the riots, indicate no letup in Beijing's relentless campaign to vilify the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, despite talks this week that followed widespread calls for dialogue from overseas.
The self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile has said two days of talks would be held in China's capital, but Chinese officials would not confirm any details, including where the meetings would be held or what the agenda was.
China denies the India-based government's legitimacy and does not want such contacts portrayed as formal negotiations.
So far, neither side has commented on the talks. The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in Dharmsala, India, has said Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche was expected to comment only after the meetings end.
Calls to the Propaganda Office of the United Front Work Department, a body within the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee which is hosting the talks, were not answered Wednesday.
The talks have particular importance in light of China's hopes of hosting a flawless Olympic Games. Some experts believe Beijing agreed to the talks to ease criticism ahead of the games, in a nod to international opinion that broadly regards the Dalai Lama as a figure of moral authority.
Some world leaders have said they might boycott the opening ceremony to protest the Chinese security crackdown in Tibetan areas of China after anti-government. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said this week he would attend if the latest talks made progress.
China has governed Tibet since communist troops marched into the Himalayan region in the 1950s. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid a failed uprising in 1959, has said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.
The meetings this week follow informal talks held in early May in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen that ended with an offer from Beijing for future discussions.
China has been accused of using heavy-handed tactics in quelling the anti-government riots and protests in Tibet. Beijing says 22 people died in the violence in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, while foreign Tibet supporters say many times that number were killed in the protests and a subsequent government crackdown.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"May raise questions"

A dry note below from the NYT science team. "May raise questions" is the agreed upon polite phrase for a catastrophe of practice, confidence and prospect in the Bejing Cadre. The Sichuan earthquake matter of factly revealed that what has changed in China since the Maoist nightmare of the 1976 quake and today is that the Cadre is more vain, less blood thirty, more arrogant, less cocksure and much, much more ambitious.

Sichuan Earthquake
On the afternoon of May 12, 2008, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale hit Sichuan Province, a mountainous region in Western China. By the next day, the death toll stood at 12,000, with another 18,000 still missing. Over 15 million people live in the affected area, including almost 4 million in the city of Chengdu. Nearly 2,000 of the dead were students and teachers caught in schools that collapsed.

Since the Tangshan earthquake in 1976, which killed over 240,000 people, China has required that new structures withstand major quakes. But the collapse of schools, hospitals and factories in several different areas around Sichuan may raise questions about how rigorously such codes have been enforced during China’s recent, epic building boom.

Tibet silenced, Sichuan silenced, Bejing silenced, Cadre mute

The news is that there is no news on the search for the dead in Sichuan Province, nor is there certainty of the investigations into the poor school buildings, the lac of transparency in the recovery effort, the prospects for clarity from the Bejing Cadre. Meantime, the reporting from Beijing points to a Potemkin village Olympics, with canned, edited TV coverage, severely restricted access, manufactured crowds, severe mind games. The Cadre is fearful, and it speaks with one voice, which is the voice of fear.

No answers for Chinese who lost children to quake

Published: June 20, 2008
Filed at 1:20 p.m. ET

WUFU, China (AP) -- About 150 parents gathered Friday at the ruins of Fuxin No. 2 Primary School, hoping to learn why the building collapsed in last month's earthquake, killing their sons and daughters.

They left with nothing: The results, officials say, were just not ready.

The parents said local officials had promised to give them the details on why the school crumbled in the May 12 quake. They accused the government of stalling.

''We are not satisfied with the government. They are playing for time,'' said Huang Zaojun, whose 11-year-old son was among 270 students that authorities say died when the three-story school collapsed.

Hong Kong Cable TV quoted parents as saying that officials denied in the meeting that they had promised to give details of the investigation. The school was located in the town of Wufu, 45 miles north of the provincial capital Chengdu.

''The government said the experts are still making an evaluation and asked us to wait. They said the result might come out in three or five days, or one or two years,'' Huang said.

He said parents would ask lawyers to find experts to make a separate evaluation.

Accusations of shoddy school construction have increasingly turned to anger against local authorities in Sichuan province, where more than 69,000 people died in China's worst disaster in three decades.

Parents have protested at numerous schools in the province, calling for explanations as to why schools collapsed so easily while nearby buildings were still standing after the 7.9 magnitude quake.

The parents were sensitive to official pressure and pushed a television crew out of the area that did not have media passes because they thought the crew was from the government.

Foreign engineers who inspected collapsed buildings in Sichuan blamed poor construction.

''If the government compels students to be in schools, and designs and constructs the schools, then the government has responsibility,'' said Brian Tucker of GEOHazards International, a nonprofit organization that works for better quake-proof buildings.

But Tucker said the many levels of government involved made it difficult to pinpoint who was at fault.

Kit Miyamoto, a spokesman for the Structural Engineering Association of California, said he found many cases of non-reinforced concrete when he inspected collapsed schools in Sichuan.

Miyamoto, head of engineering firm Miyamoto International Inc., said telltale signs of substandard construction were readily discernible.

''It took me four hours to understand what went wrong,'' he said. But Miyamoto added it could take longer to find out who is responsible.

At least four journalists representing foreign media outlets were detained for as long as six hours while trying to cover the meeting between the parents and authorities, including an Associated Press reporter who spoke to parents at the school.

Thunderstorm and heavy rainstorms were forecast this weekend in Sichuan, the provincial weather bureau said. This month marks the start of the annual rainy season, which routinely causes rivers to flood their banks.

Landslides are a particular concern because the May 12 earthquake caused steep hillsides to shear away and crash into river valleys below. Many slopes remain unstable and are at high risk of being washed away by rainstorms.

Authorities have evacuated more than 110,000 people since Sunday from mountain districts near the quake's epicenter, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The government has ordered many survivors to move several times because of potential danger from damaged homes, aftershocks and possible flooding from ''quake lakes'' that formed when huge piles of debris blocked rivers.

Torrential rains have swept much of southern China in the past week, killing at least 63 people, swamping millions of acres of farmland and causing billions of dollars in damage. Low-lying parts of eastern Sichuan have been affected, but there have been no reports of flooding in the quake zone.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Cadre searches for a fall guy and chooses a grieving dad and widower

The cynicism of the Cadre is fresh and boundless. To bring their investigation of corruption and tyranny to a satisfying conclusion, they have chosen the principal of the Dongqi middle school to blame for all the deaths of the children. It is highly useful that the man they have identified as the warlord of the Shoddy School Clique is School principal Zhou Dexiang, 45 years old, who lost his 18-year-old daughter in the collapse. The added use for choosing the criminal wrecker Zhou is that he also lost his wife, a teacher at another school. Zhou will permit anything, will say anything, will bear the weight. He is already doomed. The Cadre grins nervously and peeks out the shade. Are they still angry?

Amid Rubble, A Search For Blame
Gaps in Accountability
Emerge as Chinese Ask
Why Children Died
June 12, 2008; Page A6
MIANZHU, China -- For Dongqi Middle School's freshman class of 2006, the class photo marked their entrance into one of the district's elite schools. Beaming, they posed in front of a mural depicting the soaring mountains nearby.

When China's massive earthquake struck last month, Dongqi Middle crumbled, killing all but a handful of the students in the photo. Dozens of other schools collapsed, too, resulting in the deaths of thousands of students and triggering an outcry among their relatives.

Mei Fong/The Wall Street Journal
Vice mayor Zhang Jinming promised the grieving parents a full investigation into the school's collapse, with results by June 15.
Now, as investigators comb through the rubble of Dongqi a month after the May 12 quake, there are still few clear answers about who is to blame for the collapse here, which killed at least 220 of the school's roughly 900 students, as well as 14 teachers.

What has emerged instead are gaps in accountability that grew largely out of China's transition from Communism's state-run schools to a more fractured system, where lines of responsibility weren't clear and money that was supposed to be spent on Dongqi and other schools often wasn't.

Officials say the magnitude-7.9 quake was wholly to blame for the Dongqi school's collapse. Grieving parents point to a big crack on the wall clearly visible in the 2006 photo as evidence of shoddy construction that they think contributed to the death toll. But assessing blame is hard for a school built more than 30 years ago by a state-owned company that has since transferred it to the local government.

The Sichuan earthquake has also exposed other fault-lines in China's social policies that added to parents' grief. Tight budgets led some schools to impose hefty fees, forcing many lower-income parents to work long periods in wealthy cities far away from their kids. China's three-decade-old one-child policy exacerbated the loss.

"She was all of our hope, all of our future. Now we have nothing," said Wu Jiangqiong, who became a migrant worker when her 17-year-old daughter was just four to pay for her schooling. Ms. Wu is one of hundreds of parents now protesting what they say was official negligence that worsened the disaster, in a show of mass defiance rare in China.

Dongqi's parents believed the school had adequate funds. It was built and run for years by a subsidiary of Dongfang Electric Corp., a big state-owned producer of power-generating equipment. Dongqi's teachers were paid better than those at most schools. Yet a company official admits the company hadn't sufficiently invested in the school's infrastructure. "The money is limited. The warehouses also need money," said Zhang Dongsen, head of Dongfang's propaganda department.

As the grief unfolds at Dongqi, it is dividing the community. School principal Zhou Dexiang, 45 years old, lost his 18-year-old daughter in the collapse. His wife, a teacher at another school, also died. Mr. Zhou taught at Dongqi for 25 years and recalls only one time when structural improvements were made, in the 1980s. Still, he defends his school. "If I thought this building was dangerous, I would never send my daughter to this school and put her life at risk," said Mr. Zhou, his face sagging with grief and exhaustion.

But many of the bereaved parents blame Mr. Zhou, at least in part, for the tragedy. They shun him. Among them is Ms. Wu, a slight woman who makes about 30 cents an hour on the assembly line packing quilts, and supports five people on her wages. The bulk of her income went to her late daughter Guangxiang's pocket-money and $300 yearly school fees -- a huge sum of money for a migrant worker.

In another camp are the parents who work for Dongfang, who are torn between criticisms of the local authorities and cries against their employer. Dongfang built the main school building in 1975, a year before a major earthquake in northern China prompted new, sturdier building codes nationwide. At the time, big state-owned companies like Dongfang provided for almost all the needs of their employees, running schools, hospitals, and living quarters.

Dongfang transferred control of Dongqi to the local education bureau in 2006 as part of a nationwide policy by Beijing to slim down state companies. The transfer slowed down the school's transfer to newer facilities, according to education officials and parents.

Parents allege that Dongfang transferred some 45 million yuan ($6.5 million) to local authorities for rebuilding the facilities, but that the money wasn't used. A Dongfang official confirmed the transfer happened in 2006. Local officials declined to comment, saying investigations are still pending.

When the quake struck at 2.28 p.m., sections of the building crumbled in just over 10 seconds. Students on the third and fourth floors had no chance to escape. Ms. Wu's daughter was among them, as was Principal Zhou's.

Preliminary investigations now show the U-shaped building's structural design and construction quality were flawed, according to construction experts. Parents also complain of a slow response time by local officials and authorities, forcing them to dig with their hands for survivors.

Principal Zhou had been in his office handling administrative tasks when the quake struck. Then, along with other parents and faculty, he began trying to pull out buried students. He knew his daughter was likely among them. He tried to call his wife, who worked nearby, but couldn't get through. He only learned of his wife's death three days later.

In the end, 58 students were pulled out of the rubble. At least three later died. Principal Zhou identified his daughter's body four days later. "From her body, she was really badly injured before she died," he said.

Aside from emotional devastation, many parents are also bracing for financial loss. Many of them had worked to pay for their only child to attend school in hopes the children wouldn't end up as migrant workers like them. They also expected to depend on their offspring in old age, as is common in China, where health-care and pension systems are inadequate.

"I am too old to have another child," said Ms. Wu. She is haunted by her last phone conversation with her daughter two days before the quake, when they quarreled because her daughter wanted a cellphone. Ms. Wu had snapped, "Look, I'm not rich, it is hard for me to make money for you."

Parents' anger has mounted with the death toll. On May 29, Ms. Wu, along with other grieving parents, stood in the falling rain at the offices of the local education bureau, demanding answers from officials including Zhang Jinming, vice mayor of Deyang, the city that administers the area.

Using a megaphone, and occasionally wagging a finger, Mr. Zhang told the parents to "be patient." He promised a full investigation into the school collapse, with results by June 15. But he said nature was to blame. "The school building was a dangerous building," he said, but "the main reason for its collapse was the earthquake."

That didn't satisfy the parents. On May 31, hundreds marched again to the offices of more senior officials. Authorities sealed the area and sent in police. On June 3, a much smaller group showed up at the gates of a Dongfang Electric plant. They rattled the steel gates yelling, "Your company is rich. Why didn't you build a better school?" A loudspeaker boomed telling Dongfang's workers: "Do not engage. Do not explain. Be silent, defend the gate."

Meanwhile, Principal Zhou has thrown himself in the task of trying to move forward. "The conditions right now aren't good," he said wearily on Tuesday, as Dongqi resumed classes. The school is now two rows of flat white-and-blue temporary structures at the end of a road. There are eight classrooms with chalkboards and new desks. There aren't enough textbooks. Nearly everything has been donated.

One of the students back at school is Feng Yuan, 17, a member of the enrolling class of 2006 who had their pictures taken in front of the school mural. She made it to the stairs when the quake hit and was able to claw her way out of the rubble. "I just want to forget the past," she said. Most of her good friends and classmates are dead.

--Sue Feng and James T. Areddy in Mianzhu, Ellen Zhu in Shanghai and Gao Sen in Beijing contributed to this article.

Write to Mei Fong at

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Student Rebellion Upside Down: The Torch understands irony

In theory, protesting students praising the Cadre is breathless nonsense. In practice, it looks like nationalism is looking for leadership. Not the Cadre.

Chinese Students Rally, but Often
In Support of Government
June 4, 2008; Page A14
BEIJING -- Nineteen years after Beijing's bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, China's college students today are more likely to favor nationalistic causes and work within the one-party system.

A group of women with stickers of the Chinese flag pasted on their cheeks gather to watch the Olympic torch relay at Wenzhou in Zhejiang province.
The patriotism that drove young people to criticize authorities in the 1980s is now seen by many students as best expressed by supporting China's leadership for the progress it has achieved in expanding China's economy and raising its international profile.

That sentiment has been strengthened in recent months by the political crisis in Tibet, the Sichuan earthquake and the approach of the Beijing Olympics.

Students rallied against foreign criticism of Beijing's policies in Tibet, where violent antigovernment riots in March were met with a harsh crackdown, and they have often lauded the state's response to the devastating quake. Thousands of Beijing students have volunteered to help with logistics of the Summer Games, which they see as a national triumph.

The student support for the government is a sharp contrast to the image of Chinese students shaped by the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that still lingers for many in the West. China's government has never said how many people died in the June 3-4 crackdown that ended those demonstrations. Outside groups say the number was anywhere from several hundred to several thousand. Ahead of the Olympics, international groups like Human Rights Watch have renewed their calls for Beijing to release some of the estimated 130 people who remain in jail for their involvement in the demonstrations.

Associated Press
A Beijing University student leader argued with a policeman in April 1989.
In some ways, much of the symbolism of the Olympics appears aimed at redefining an international view of Beijing still darkened by the Tiananmen crackdown. The square has been used for such Olympic functions as the starting ceremony for the global torch relay. At a routine press conference Tuesday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang declined to answer a question on the Tiananmen protests. The question was omitted from a transcript of the briefing posted on the ministry's Web site.

Many young people in China don't know what took place in 1989 and don't seem especially keen to find out. China's students today aren't especially antiestablishment or openly critical of authority -- a product both of their own experiences and of an active effort by Communist Party leaders to better shape and co-opt student opinions.

Last year, Peking University's administrators tore down three notice boards at a corner on campus called the "sanjiao di" that students had long used to display social and political commentary. In the spring of 1989, at China's most prestigious school, the boards had helped rally student sentiment for the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

Now sanjiao di boasts just a few pine trees and some wispy grass. Wang Jianbin, an undergraduate studying law, says students stopped posting political content on the boards several years ago, long before they were removed. "Students were posting rental requests and information about test-preparation programs," he says.

In the 1980s, China's leadership sometimes encouraged constructive criticism from students, believing that public criticisms could foster national unity. But today political challenges are frowned on, and Chinese schools teach virtually nothing about the Tiananmen protests, or June 4, as the event is known in China. "All I know is that on June 4, the school authorities get a little bit antsy," says Yang Linyan, a senior in international politics at the Beijing International Studies University. "Any student activity you want to organize on June 4 is usually scrutinized extra carefully," she says.

Virtually all Chinese universities house student groups and clubs allied with the party's Communist Youth League, which claims more than 75 million members, including most college students. That makes antigovernment activism immediately taboo and encourages public displays of support for the authorities. "China is a very well-run country, and our future will be better," says Ren Shaopeng, an engineering student and vice chairman of the Students' Union at the Beijing Science and Technology University.

Young people in China often equate the notion of government with country. Student support is also rooted in the tremendous economic progress experienced by most Chinese young people -- all of whom were born well after market-oriented liberalization began three decades ago. Grass-roots affection has reached a peak after the earthquake, as many express appreciation to the central government for mobilizing troops and supplies and for Premier Wen Jiabao's rapid arrival in the disaster zone.

"The authorities have performed very well," says Xu Xuexin, a senior at top-ranked Tsinghua University in Beijing. "I hope foreigners can see the unity of the Chinese people and their government."

Economic prosperity has played a major role in generating student support for the government. In the 1980s, students were angered in part by huge social problems, like double-digit inflation rates and remnants of the old communist system that impeded opportunities, such as the government work-assignment system that dispatched them to state jobs after graduation, with no heed paid to their personal preferences.

Today's Chinese students live in an era of relative prominence and plenty -- and there are far more of them, thanks to a major expansion of college enrollment. Higher-education funding rose sixfold between 1996 and 2005, the last year for which China's government has numbers.

Major universities boast new sports complexes where some Olympic events will be scheduled. In April, the education ministry said it planned to increase student subsidies amid soaring food prices, a policy that will affect some 20 million students across the country.

"Chinese students are pragmatists now," says Ruth Cherrington, author of "China's Students: the Struggle for Democracy," and a lecturer at Warwick University in the United Kingdom. "They have a lot more economic incentive to stay with the present brand of patriotism."

Young Chinese have far greater access today than their parents did to international media and other sources of information from abroad. Yet many feel their country and their government are deeply misunderstood in the West. That feeling flooded out amid protests in some Western cities against the Olympic torch relay. The protests upset many Chinese students, who counterattacked with demonstrations and campaigns to boycott Western conglomerates.

Many students accept the Chinese government's argument, which might seem anathema on college campuses in the U.S. or Europe, that unfettered freedom of expression can be destabilizing.

Mr. Wang, the Peking University law student, plans to head to law school at Duke University after he graduates in July. He rejects the idea that "democracy" and "human rights" are universal notions. "Unlike in the West, we don't stand on a higher plane and spot problems with democracy and human rights in other places," he says. "You have your values, we have ours.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Torch waits on the Moms

This is heart cracking. It is impossible to look into the face of these moms. Today there came an opportunity my 18 year-old son to travel to Sichuan province this summer to help with the clean-up, and I hope we can organize the visa work and the airfare. China and the United States share much, and much more to learn. One thing to share is that transparency and accountability are the bedrock of a stable state. And only liberty can provide the muscle.

China Restricts Protests
And Media in Quake Zone
Police Break Up Rally
On Children's Deaths;
New Rules Over Access
June 3, 2008 2:00 p.m.
MIANZHU, China -- Chinese officials clamped down on protests by parents angry over the deaths of their children in last month's earthquake, with police breaking up at least one demonstration and attempting to prevent media access to other quake-stricken towns Tuesday.

Associated Press
Dozens of parents who lost children to the May 12 quake protested outside the court house in Dujiangyan, China Tuesday.
In some cases, local officials cited what they said were newly imposed media regulations, although they gave scant and sometimes contradictory information on these new rules. The new measures appear to scale back some of the media freedoms granted after the May 12 earthquake, which so far has killed almost 70,000 people.

In the hard-hit town of Dujiangyan, police hauled away more than 100 parents of children killed in a school during the quake who were protesting in front of a courthouse, the Associated Press reported. An AP reporter and two photographers, as well as two Japanese reporters, were detained briefly when as they tried to observe the event, the report said.

Several eyewitnesses said the parents wanted to go into the courthouse and file a lawsuit but they were blocked by hundreds of police. "The government has been talking about the investigation for such a long time. We still have no answers," said Ms. Wang, who lost her niece at Juyuan Middle School and declined to give her full name. She accompanied the girl's mother to the court in Dujiangyan Tuesday morning, where she says there were about 200 to 300 parents, each holding pictures of their lost children.

The clamor of grieving parents -- who say poor construction led to their children's deaths -- has emerged as a sensitive issue for Chinese authorities. Just two months before the media glare surrounding the Beijing Olympics, they are juggling the demands of disaster-relief work with the need to manage growing pockets of unrest among parents, many who lost their only child when schools collapsed in the quake.

Columbia University Prof. Xiaobo Lu, who studies Chinese politics, said it was just a matter of time before the Chinese government pulled back from its relatively liberal attitude toward news coverage of the Sichuan quake. "In the back of the authorities' mind, there is a fear of looming unrest. Their approach is to address the problem in a way they can control," said Prof. Lu.

The restrictions appeared tightest in areas where collapsed schools killed hundreds of students, places that have become the scenes of increasing protests by parents over the past week.

A Wall Street Journal reporter present during a peaceful protest in Hanwang town on Tuesday was questioned repeatedly by police there, with one officer attempting to stop the reporter from taking photos. Later on, propaganda officials tailed the reporter by car out of town and pulled the reporter over for questioning.

On the same day, police also blocked roads to Wufu, another town with a school that collapsed while surrounding buildings survived, and prevented several Chinese reporters from entering the town, according to people present.

The Chinese government is investigating the causes of collapse at many of these schools, but parents are chafing at the delay in results, which could take several more weeks.

The anger appears to be fueled, in part, by the disclosure that family-planning officials were offering to give annual sums of $144 per parent as partial compensation for their loss, which many felt was too low.

When the magnitude-7.9 quake occurred on May 12, hundreds of foreign and domestic news organizations swarmed to Sichuan to cover the disaster, initially with few or no restrictions.

Now, the new rules appear to limit access to the areas where parents have been protesting. Yan Hua, an official from the Mianzhu propaganda department, told a reporter that as of Monday, journalists were required to obtain permission from the local-government office in Deyang and media passes issued by the Foreign Affairs Office of the Sichuan Provincial People's Government were no longer valid.

A spokeswoman from the Foreign Affairs Office of the Sichuan Provincial People's Government confirmed that the department is issuing new media passes, but she said the passes would cover all Sichuan -- so reporters wouldn't have to seek individual permission from the province's various municipalities.

While the new regulations were put into place Monday, she said, the new passes aren't yet available and further details about how to obtain them would be posted on the Sichuan government's Web site. But a check of the Web site Tuesday evening offered no further information.

Highlighting the often-contradictory information about the new media rules, Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters in Beijing Tuesday: "I don't know of any new regulations there. The principle remains unchanged for transparency and openness."

Meanwhile, the parent protests appear to be escalating. On Tuesday, parents from Dongzhi school protested in Hanwang, outside a subsidiary of Shanghai-listed Dongfang Electric Corp.

The state-owned company is one of China's largest power companies and had built the school before it was transferred to the local government in 2006. Parents clustered outside the factory gates shouting things such as "Your company is rich! Why didn't you build a better school?"

Liu Wenzhong, whose 17-year-old son, Yu Dan, was killed, stood at the gates of the company, crying. A burly policeman patted him on the back and said, "You should calm down. We can solve this, the issue can be solved -- but not this way."

Authorities Delay Draining of Quake Lake

Meanwhile, Xinhua said authorities have delayed for two days a bid to divert water from a huge lake formed when the quake sent landslides tumbling into a river in Beichuan, in northern Sichuan.

Water levels in the lake had been rising steadily and threatened to flood surrounding areas, prompting authorities to evacuate nearly 200,000 people already uprooted by the quake. But Xinhua said with little rain forecast for the next several days, rescue workers were not likely to start draining off the water until Thursday. The work had been expected to start Tuesday.

Workers have already used heavy earth-moving equipment to dig a runoff channel to remove the water. The government is worried the newly-formed lake could burst, sending a wall of water through a valley.

In an indication of how difficult rescue conditions are in parts of Sichuan, there is still no sign of a helicopter that crashed nearly three days ago while ferrying survivors. Thousands of soldiers have been combing remote mountains in search of the military helicopter.

The Russian-designed Mi-171 transport was carrying 19 people, 14 of them people injured in the quake, when it flew into fog and turbulence and crashed Saturday near the epicenter of the temblor in the town of Wenchuan, state media reported.

--The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Write to Mei Fong at