Background to Sichuan Schools Corruption Scandal

Over 7,000 schoolrooms collapsed in the course of the earthquake, mostly in rural areas, reportedly leading to the death of nearly 5,000 students (though some parents believe the real figure is twice that officially cited) and the injury of over 15,000 students. The total death toll of the quake was around 70,000 people, with some 375,000 injuries. A month after the quake, nearly 20,000 people remained missing, while five million were rendered homeless.

The disproportionate number of school collapses led to open discussions that they were not built to adequate standards. The grieving parents and critical journalists pointed out that "hundreds of schools collapsed instantly -- even newly constructed ones -- while older buildings nearby were often unscathed." This, in turn, has led to allegations of corruption on the part of Education Ministry officials and contractors who were said to be complicit in constructing the school buildings dangerously below government-mandated standards, while pocketing the remaining surplus. On May 26, Wang Xuming, a spokesman for the Education Ministry, stated that the ministry would complete a reassessment of school buildings in quake zones and that those who had cut corners on school construction would be "severely punished." Some parents protested what they argued, one month after the event, amounts to government inaction.