20080615/系列报道(4-3):中国人奋力求生存

《多伦多太阳报》记者Thane Burnett四川绵竹报道,加拿大中国地震灾区采访队编译

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。

这位60岁的祖母坐在雨中。在她的脚底下,是于五月十二日大地震震碎了的家园,她对着上天大叫:“天呀,为什么这样对我们?”

上天没有回答她,反而不断的将雨水打在她瘦削的肩膀上。在她附近的家人都在计算着,这么多年来的争扎成果,就这样被这场八级大地震推倒,生活水平倒退了三十年。

这房子是她其中一个儿子花了二十年才盖成的,但现在他说年纪太大,再也没气力从头开始。

他们的物资包括面粉,都放在附近的棚里,但日渐潮湿的天气已开始把物资弄坏。

老祖母有三个成年孩子,其中两个回来看过家园变成废墟之后,认为没法重新修补了,所以离开自己的孩子和母亲,出外谋生。政府给他们一家人食物、水及帐篷,但昨天的大雨令他们需要另作打算了。

她什么也有,火柴也不缺少,可她的家人整天都没吃过东西,因为根本无法燃起那沾湿了的柴枝。

烧不成饭,一群群的苍蝇便在空锅上飞来飞去,俨如烧饭时冒出的黑烟。

现在只余下最后一根柴了,老妇人终于忍耐不住,嚎啕大哭,祈求苍天给她一点帮忙。

这位老妇人和其他千万人的遭遇,正是加拿大红十字会成为这场灾难中第二大捐赠者的原因,而这些人的景况,亦是我到来采访的主因。如今全球大部分的头版新闻已不再是地震消息了,我的责任便是要记录人类在这场重大灾难中劫后余生。

中国现正处于重要的十字街头。奥运会快将展开,全球都在见证着中国抬起头来,但亦同时目睹她的倒下,中共高层官员都明白要将这些故事告知外面的世界。因此高层官员迅速反应,令记者得到几十年来难得一见的基本新闻自由,然而官僚作风始终未能远去。

在过去一个星期,美国NBC及《华尔街日报》等新闻机构欲进入灾区,但遇到障碍。其他要采访悼念子女在地震中死去的家庭之记者,亦被赶走。

上周四中国宣传部一位副部长Wang Guoqing在英文《中国日报》,发表一篇令人诧异的道歉,向所有欲报道灾情但受到阻挠的外国记者表示歉意。

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。

第一次,与红十字会一队运载食水进村的车队到达检查站时,武警不让我们的采访车进入,表示要先拿到市政府的通行证才可以继续前进。带头的武警登记了我们的护照,表示他只是履行职责。

区内的宣传部官员解释,处处要拿官方允许,是要确保我们的安全,这样他们可以了解我们有否被山泥冲走,或被活埋石墙底下。但为何其他人可以牺牲,不值得当局像对待车上记者般,也为他们登记一下,那便不得而知。

我们不只是这一次遇到武警留难。

在九龙镇附近一处营地,只见破破烂烂的帐篷,四处满目疮痍,整个镇几乎夷为平地,砖块石墙都变成瓦砾,电线东拉西倒。

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。

当地人告诉我这个九龙镇有100个学童罹难,士兵们濆洒的消毒剂仍然残留余味。一个70岁的老妇人在火堆上煮粉团,说要将粉团用竹签撑起,当地震来时可保护人命。她住的山头已塌了下来。这里所用的水,都是由加拿大人捐赠的钱提供的。本来还可以有很多故事,不过两位年轻武警走过来检查采访证,说虽然我们已拿到两个证件,但因没有当地政府的批准,便不能采访做笔记或拍摄。

不过我们是可以离开的。

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?”

她继续说,几百年来,从来没有人像他们这样凄惨。

尽管当局的承诺及道歉,有时要在中国报道一些故事,情况就跟这位祖母向上天问过究竟一样。


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.

http://www.torontosun.com/News/Columnists/Burnett_Thane/2008/06/15/5882316-sun.php

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