After Explosive Bridge Collapse, Chinese Officials Skimp on Victims (Updated)
After a fireworks truck exploded and collapsed a bridge in Henan Province on Feb. 1, it was time for the provincial government to pay out compensation. But the authorities have attempted to strike unequal deals with the families of victims, offering more to city dwellers than country residents, and sometimes pressuring families to take a small amount for a quick settlement.
The number of fatalities from the Yichang Bridge collapse remains unclear, ranging from an original figure of 26 to the current official claim of 10.
Although an official for the State Administration of Work Safety claimed on China National Radio, a state mouthpiece, that the compensation should be the same regardless of the identity of the victim, reports from victims’ families appeared to demonstrate that that was not the case.
A Henan Business Daily account described one family’s experience: “They said that city residents will get more than 400,000 yuan and rural residents will get 180,000 yuan for the maximum compensation.”
China Youth Daily told of a family from Shandong Province that was pressured by Henan authorities to accept an even smaller amount. “They told me the sooner a compensation agreement is signed, the more will be rewarded. A staff member asked if my father was from an urban or a rural area,” the family member said.
“Yesterday they talked about payment, but the amount was very small, and we did not accept it. They offered us a reward of 50,000 yuan for signing the compensation agreement before twelve today. But we did not think it is reasonable,” the family member added.
The public reacted strongly when the uneven deals were reported, with netizens decrying the evident discrimination against farmers.
Weighing in on the controversial issue, Beijing intellectual property lawyer Chao Hu gave a lengthy legal opinion in his blog.
He noted first that the bridge collapse compensation should be conducted according to the Tort Liability Act, and that compensation ought to be based on provisions in Article 17. “Local governments should strictly follow the law,” he wrote.
“Under the current law, each individual has the same value. There is no difference in lives. There is no monetary value for lives,” he said.
“Whether the individual’s residence is rural or urban, according to the law, the compensation should be the same.”
Update: On the afternoon of Feb. 4, Dahe.cn, the official website of the Henan provincial government, noted the media reports which described unequal compensation and—without refuting those reports—said that all victims would be compensated equally.
Read the original Chinese article.
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