China's disaster death tolls remain secret


As President Bush gets blamed for the death toll of Hurricane Katrina, China continues to keep its own disaster death tolls secret, despite the ap[earance of reform. The South China Morning Post reports (paid subscription only):

Beijing will not revise or offer new information about death tolls from past natural disasters despite no longer considering the numbers state secrets, a senior official said yesterday.

The announcement last week the figures were now declassified sparked hope the central government might finally disclose the number of people who died in the Great Famine, from 1959—61. But Vice—Minister of Civil Affairs Jia Zhibang said that was not on the agenda.

"As for the figures of natural disasters in the past, we will not make any revision," Mr Jia said. "Some of these have not been publicised, while some have.

"For example, the death toll from the Tangshan earthquake was released by the People's Daily in 1979. As for the figures for the three years of natural disasters, we don't have the information, and we won't revise or publicise them."

Brian Schwarz   9 23 05