Sichuan Schools Corruption Scandal

After the May 12, 2008, earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan, there was a series of allegations of corruption against officials involved in the construction of schools in regions affected by the quake. It gained momentum in May and June 2008, and the allegations culminated in protests from grieving parents of children who died in the earthquake as a result of the collapse of various schools in the quake zone.

The scandal eventually became a focal point of reporting on the earthquake rescue efforts, with Chinese civil engineers, bloggers, activists, and foreign media bringing attention to the allegations. Various discussions and reports alleged that local government officials and construction companies were negligent in the construction of schools, and that they ignored civil engineering standards, saved materials and took shortcuts while pocketing the difference.

Despite initial openness to independent reporting and foreign media, the Chinese government attempted to downplay the issue and suppress criticism. Additionally, local government attempted to entice grieving parents into monetary compensation in exchange for their silence. While Chinese authorities were initially praised by international media for its rapid and effective response to the earthquake, the school construction scandal severely undermined the initial positive reactions, particularly among Western media. Postings about the scandal flooded Chinese online portals and discussion boards, and popularized the phrase "tofu-dreg schoolhouses" (Chinese:豆腐渣校舍). The internet activism resulted in a pledge by Beijing to conduct investigations into the allegations, but it was ostensibly not followed up with any substantial action.