Families want the truth more than compensation
Updated: 2011-07-28 07:20
By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
WENZHOU, Zhejiang - Many families of passengers killed in Saturday's high-speed rail collision declined to accept compensation money on Wednesday, demanding authorities disclose the true cause of the accident before jumping to negotiations about compensation.
People examine the train wreckage from the fatal July 23 accident at a cargo station in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. [China Daily]
Earlier on Wednesday, the team in charge of dealing with the aftermath of the accident said families were entitled to 500,000 yuan ($77,600) for each death, which consisted of compensation from the railway department, one-time aid money and social donations.
The amount more than doubled the compensation made to victims of a train accident in East China's Shandong province in 2008, which left 72 dead and 416 injured. In that accident, families were given 200,000 yuan for each death.
"We don't need money. We demand the truth," said Wang Hui on Wednesday.
The brother of another victim, Lin Xiao, said: "They don't talk about the accident and the cause. They just focus on the money as if we came here just for money. What can be more heartbreaking?"
Authorities were also accused of forcing families to agree with cremation of their loved ones' bodies before they could pick up the compensation.
The website of the Wenzhou government said on Tuesday that those promptly agreeing to the cremation would receive tens of thousands of yuan as a bonus to prevent families making more trouble, which has enraged the public. But the spokesman of the Wenzhou government denied on Wednesday morning that authorities had proposed such an approach.
Some families of the victims gathered at Wenzhou South Railway Station on Wednesday morning, carrying a banner reading "probing the truth about the July 23 tragedy and giving respect to the victims".
Families of victim Lu Hongyan said: "She was coldly lying there. Shouldn't authorities respect the customs and religious beliefs of the dead? The best way to comfort the deceased is give them the truth."
A family member of Xiang Weiyi, a 2-year-old girl rescued about 21 hours after the crash, was also among the crowd.
He said he mostly wanted to know the cause of the accident, and for the time being would not consider the matter of compensation.
"I don't know the cause, so how can I talk about compensation?" he said.
Families also demanded face-to-face communication with ministry leaders and for the release of more details, such as where the victims were seated in the train and why rescue efforts stopped before carefully checking if there were still survivors in the wreckage.
"The amount of compensation is significantly lower than other accidents, such as flight accidents and road accidents," said Zhou Qi, a lawyer from Shanghai Zhai Jian Law Firm.
Zhou criticized the extra bonus for victims' families, saying that forcing them to reach a compensation agreement quickly shows a lack of respect for life.
Netizens also expressed their anger by saying ironically that 500,000 yuan can only buy a small room in some big cities in the country, or about 400 bottles of the high-end Moutai liquor popular among government officials.
Zhou added that there is a loophole in related regulations and laws.
"Current regulations and laws state that the investigation will be carried out by the railway departments when accidents occur. Meanwhile, the disputes over the accidents are also handled by the railway system's courts," he said. "We can see the railway department acts as both athlete and referee."
Zhou was echoed by Chen Xing, a lawyer from Beijing, who said it is a lack of justice and honesty that the railway department made the one-sided compensation decision.
According to Wu Dong, a lawyer from Shanghai Hui Ye Law Office, the compensation should include compensation for mental trauma for the victims' families.
"This serious accident caused great harm to the families of victims. To claim compensation for mental damage is beyond doubt," he said.
Wang Hongyi in Shanghai contributed to this story.
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