Thanks to all of you for your concern, thoughts, and prayers for the victims and relief workers in the earthquake aftermath – the 7.1 earthquake that hit Yushu, Qinghai province in Western China on 14 April. I, and a couple of co-workers here have still not received the all-clear to go and help in the relief effort. An advance team of my colleagues in Shenyang left on Monday and they were held up for a couple of days, but sent the message that new people were not welcome but that the situation is fluid and may change. They are at the site now, but a recent update is pending on the situation. We have heard that the medical teams have been overwhelmed with need and the health care professionals are stretched to the limits. However, it seems not likely that more help will not be welcome – especially from the foreigners.
The relief effort has been hampered by the physical elements: altitude, snow, and treacherous roads on the remote and rural plateau. Furthermore, China is not immune to the corruption, cheating, and stealing for food, water, tents, and other goods that plagues relief efforts in every other country suffering a major disaster. However, there is still an incredible amount of good that is pouring out of people, crossing cultural, religious, political, and language barriers.
As I’ve mentioned before, this area is about 97% Tibetan Buddhist. Monks, as other people, from all over have been helping out in the relief effort – serving in whatever capacity. However, it seems that the government is now tired of it and perhaps fears that too much credit will go to people that the government doesn’t like – people whom it fears will be seen as heros in the effort. Over the last few days the monks have been asked to leave.
A quotation from this interesting article from the Guardian: “Professor Robert Barnett, director of the modern Tibetan studies program at Columbia University, said: ‘China has never faced this situation before, where the monks it has demonised for 15 years as potential enemies of the state turn out to be energetic contributors to social construction and community building, the same role that the party has always claimed for itself.'” Other articles on the religious and political situation of disaster relief include this one and others such as NY Times, Newsweek, and the Telegraph UK . Perhaps because this area is politically sensitive that foreigners are no longer welcome. Or perhaps China doesn’t want to appear that they need any help from anybody else, but is happy to receive funds to help them do whatever they want to.
It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out. Meanwhile people suffer not only the earthquake and its aftermath, but the ego of the authorities. Unfortunately this is not a new story here, or in other countries for that matter!