Police detain parents after China quake city protest

BEIJING Sat Jun 21, 2008 8:39am BST

A grieving parent cries as she burns incense and her dead child's clothes in front of the rubble of the Beichuan Number One Middle School, located around 150 km (93 miles) north of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, June 12, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray

A grieving parent cries as she burns incense and her dead child's clothes in front of the rubble of the Beichuan Number One Middle School, located around 150 km (93 miles) north of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, June 12, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Police in southwestern China on Saturday detained and also beat up some parents who tried to protest outside a city hall, demanding answers to the school collapses in last month's earthquake which killed their children.

"They detained several of the parents' representatives. We are trying to get them released. They detained eight people," said Hu Jian, a resident of Dujiangyan, a small city 50 km (30 miles) from the Sichuan province capital of Chengdu.

His daughter was crushed to death when her school collapsed.

The quake in Sichuan province killed some 70,000 people, and many parents of the 9,000 or so children killed blame the flimsy school buildings and officials whom they claim spurned building safety rules.

In Dujiangyan, some parents tried again to seek redress from the local government, Hu told Reuters by telephone, but a police cordon prevented them from getting inside city hall.

"They also beat up some parents," said Yang Yong, another witness, adding he saw at least three people being detained.

The Dujiangyan government could not immediately be reached for comment.

Beijing has said it sympathizes with the parents' plight, will probe school building safety and extend whatever help it can.

The Sichuan province has also set up working teams specifically to address parents' concerns and dispatched them to some counties where schools collapsed.

But some parents have complained the local authorities are harassing them, and several have been detained in previous demonstrations.

The protests have not been reported locally, and efforts by officials to discourage foreign reporters talking to parents underscore the school issue's sensitivity when the government wants the focus on massive relief efforts for millions of displaced people.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Valerie Lee)

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