灰暗的天空昨天放点晴，站在青绿稻田与废墟之中的Ren Chang Xiu，望着上天祈求答案。
他说：“我们还有很多地方要改善。”然而像他和其他的高层人员虽然要开放，一些低下阶层的官员郤是依然故我，处处阻挠。昨日在见到Ren Chang Xiu责问苍天之前，我的官方采访证便两度被人拒绝。
11岁的女孩子Song Pan Xing在附近的学校上课，她因为再也见不到同学哭起来，但她还未完成她的故事，就被警察检查打断了。
结果我们就在离开这个帐篷城之后，遇上了责问上天的Ren Chang Xiu。她反问：“我们这么多年辛苦经营便是得到这些吗？”
Heaven deaf to quake pleas
Chinese struggling just to survive
Sun, June 15, 2008
By THANE BURNETT, TORONTO SUN
MIANZHU REGION, China — Grey skies tore open wider yesterday and, circled by vivid green rice paddies and the rubble of her world, Ren Chang Xiu looked up and asked to be finally heard.
The 60-year-old grandmother sat in the rain, on the foundation of what was once her family home — before the May 12 earthquake just took it all away — and pleaded out loud to the sky: “Heaven, why do you do this to us?”
The answer back was simply quiet contempt by the elements, which kept dumping more onto her thin shoulders. Her family, huddling nearby, calculate that their struggle to get ahead in life was suddenly pushed back 30 years by the 7.9-magnitude quake.
It took one of her sons at least 20 years to build the home they had. He said he’s now too old to start again.
In a nearby shed, their provisions, including flour, were starting to rot in the growing dampness.
Of her three grown sons, two came back to view the rubble, only to decide there was nothing here left to salvage. So they apparently left their children and this older woman to fend for themselves.
The government has supplied her and her kin with food, water and a tent, but the heavy rain had other plans for them yesterday.
She had everything including a match, but the family had not eaten all day, because nothing would ignite the wet fuel for a fire.
Instead of steam over her rice pot, flies moved en masse, like puffs of black smoke over the empty wok.
It was the last straw for the frail woman, who broke down and petitioned heaven for some small grace.
She, and so many others like her, are why Canada has become the second largest Red Cross donor to this catastrophe. These people are also the reason I was sent here, to chronicle the human aftershocks of a major story which has lost its place on most of the world’s front pages. But being able to witness her plight, and history, is a lesson in old ways and new promises.
China is, as it always seems to be, at a crucial crossroads. With the Olympics within reach, and the world watching both their building pride and their recent fall, high-ranking Communist officials here have understood the need to allow these stories to be told beyond their borders.
In fact, as those officials respond to helping their masses with amazing precision, journalists have enjoyed some basic press freedoms unknown for generations here. But reminders of the origins of red tape are never too far behind a story.
In the past week news or -ganizations — including NBC and the Wall Street Journal — have faced difficulties getting into quake-hit areas. Other reporters were quickly moved away from families gathering to remember schoolchildren lost in the quake.
Last Thursday Wang Guoqing, a deputy director of the state’s information office, used the China Daily newspaper to issue a stunning apology to any foreign news outlets that have been held back from telling their readers about what is happening here.
“There’s a lot we can im -prove,” he bluntly told the English-language paper.
But as he and other officials push to suddenly open the gate wide, some lower officials who are used to the security of old ways fumble to make you knock a few more times. Yesterday, before happening upon Ren Chang Xiu’s one-way conversation with the powers above, my official government press pass was rejected at least twice.
Once, at a checkpoint here, while being escorted by a Red Cross convoy supplying clean water to villages, our media car was turned around by armed guards and we were told we’d need to get a city permit to continue on. As passports were recorded, the head officer explained he was just trying to do his job.
The official reason — given in the area’s information ministry office — was that the formal stamps of approval were for our own safety. They were being diligent, they said, so they would know if we were swept away by a mudslide or crushed under a wall. It remained unclear why all others seem more expendable — and not worthy of keeping track of — than a car full of reporters.
It would not be our last murky meeting with Chinese police.
At a camp near Jiu Long, striped and patchwork tents looked like a tattered carnival had hit town. But just beyond them, much of the town was simply gone — reduced to broken brick and smashed concrete and bare wires hanging like vines.
Song Pan Xing, an 11-year-old girl who went to school nearby, cried as she recalled classmates she would never see again. Her story was interrupted by a police inspection.
In Jiu Long, I’m told 100 children died in an area kindergarten. You can still smell the germ-killing chemicals sprayed by soldiers.
A 70-year-old woman stir red a pot of dough on an open fire and told of holding onto bamboo for dear life as the earthquake struck. The mountainside she lived on crashed into the one next to it. There may have been other stories to hear in the camp, which was using fresh water funded in party by Canadians, but soon two young police officers demanded press credentials. Without local authority, we could not take notes or use our cameras or ask questions.
But, yes, we could leave.
Which, shortly after, heading out of the tent city, is how we came across Ren Chang Xiu, as she addressed heaven.
“We worked here for years and years for this?” she asked.
In centuries, she said, no one has heard of a story as sad as theirs.
Despite promises and apologies, telling those stories from China can still be a lot like getting the grandmother an answer from above.