The March sun shines moderately in Beijing, while thousands of kilometers away, the land of Sichuan is permeated with the greenness of Spring.
How are the people doing in Sichuan, the main disaster-stricken region attacked by the unprecedented earthquake last year? How is the reconstruction going? The answers are expected by those who have ardent concern over the people in Sichuan.
The Press Center for the Second Session of the Eleventh National People’s Congress ushered in a special interview of widespread attention on March 8. At 9:30, there was already no empty seat in the Multifunction Room of Media Center. Mr. Wei Hong, deputy to the 11th NPC, member of the Standing Committee of the Sichuan Provincial Committee of the CPC and Vice-Governor of Sichuan Province, is briefing to over 200 journalists from 96 domestic and foreign media on the latest information of the reconstruction of the earthquake-stricken Sichuan.
72% of the main tasks of the reconstruction programme will be completed by the end of the year.
“With a deep sense of gratitude for rebirth, the people are rebuilding their beautiful homeland with their hands”. For the journalists present, these concise opening remarks unfold a scene of passionate reconstruction by the people in the earthquake-stricken Sichuan.
Wei Hong indicates that, 10124 key projects of reconstruction have been launched in Sichuan Province by the end of February, accounting for 31% of the total tasks. So far, there has been no famine and no vagrant in the area, and no epidemics or social unrest has appeared. The society is stable, the people are reassured and positive, and restoration and reconstruction are accelerating.
“We will make every effort to complete tasks of rebuilding farmers’ houses by the end of September this year.” “We will try our best to complete 95% of the tasks of restoring schools and health and medical institutions by the end of the yeas.” These promises open a brand new view of the earthquake-stricken areas before the journalists, from the reconstruction of urban and rural residential houses, public facilities to the reconstruction of infrastructures and industries.
This grand earthquake is both a significant calamity in real life and a severe trial for progress. Sichuan has made and is still making miracles, from the rescue and relief after the earthquake, the resettlement of the people, to the resolution of “accelerating the reconstruction of new homeland and accelerating the construction of the ‘highland for economic development in the Western Region’”. “We all benefit from the leadership of the Central Government, from the advantages of socialism, from the independence of the people in Sichuan, and from the mutual help of the Chinese”, Mr. Wei Hong remarks.
Love knows no boundary. Sichuan will never forget what they get from the world. “Once again, we extend our heart-fell respect and immense gratitude”. On behalf of the Sichuan people, Mr. Wei Hong expresses thanks to the fellow countrymen in China, to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan compatriots and overseas Chinese, and to foreign friends who offered aid in various forms.
【Records of Q&A Section】
Funds and project execution are two difficulties in the reconstruction programme.
Reporter with CCTV: Just now you said that Sichuan is going to complete the three-year tasks in only two years. We would like to know, are there difficulties in fulfilling this aim? If everything is done ahead of schedule, will the quality of those projects be guaranteed, like roads, bridges and other infrastructures?
Wei Hong: Frankly, we are fully prepared to take shorter time to complete the main tasks of the restoration. Based on the real conditions of Sichuan Province, at the end of last year, the Provincial Committee of the CPC and the Provincial Government proposed the requirements and aims of “accelerate and bring forward the reconstruction ahead of schedule”. We are confident of completing the tasks in two years, while we are also clear of the difficulties.
The first difficulty concerns funds. The reconstruction programme needs 1.7 trillion yuan in total, of which only 360 billion yuan is currently covered by governmental funds. So we face a shortfall of about 1.3 trillion yuan. You all know that governmental funds are scheduled annually. Therefore, we must promote the investment of civilian funds and the support of credit funds. That requires our innovative thinking to create conditions for fund-raising. Moreover, the funds must be arranged in a centralized manner to ensure the completion of the reconstruction programme ahead of schedule.
The second difficulty is the execution of the projects. You all know that the approval of the projects takes time, and the construction and engineering also takes time. Projects must be standardized and organized scientifically and orderly, whether in terms of programming, environmental evaluation, or in terms of feasibility studies, approval or execution. In this regard, we have three issues in mind: firstly, we consider adjusting the detailed aims and tasks of each year. Second, we will order the tasks according to their importance and urgency and give priority to key projects. Thirdly, we will further guarantee the enforcement of policies, and the investment of funds and the availability of construction materials so as to ensure the quality of the projects. As such, the reconstruction programme can certainly be completed ahead of schedule.
The death toll will definitely be publicized to be responsible for the people.
Reporter with the Reuters: Can you tell us how many children died in their schools after the earthquake? If the figure is not available, can you tell us how many schools have to be rebuilt now that nearly one year has passed, and how much have to be spent on that?
Wei Hong: The final number of student victims depends on the release of the death toll of Wenchuan Earthquake, and the final determination of the number of the deaths shall be conducted in accordance with relevant provisions promulgated by competent ministries and departments of the State on the determination of the number of the deaths especially the missing. That involves complicated operations and procedures, such as investigating into and verifying the place where the deaths or the missing last appeared, as well as their basic information and personal data. Therefore, the exact number of student victims will not be available before the final determination of the death toll and number of this earthquake.
Currently, we are still undergoing the verification of the death toll of this earthquake, including taking the missing as having been dead, in accordance with the requirements of relevant ministries and departments of the State and the provisions of relevant laws and rules. Our government is the people’s government. We will definitely take the attitude of being responsible to the people and the society and release the death toll of Wenchuan Earthquake.
Three principles settle the difficulties of farmers who lost their land in the earthquake.
Reporter with the People’s Daily and the People’s Net: As far as we know, many farmers lost their farmland and land for house-building. Can you tell us how the government helps settle the difficulties of these farmers in this regard?
Wei Hong: After the earthquake, nearly 200 thousand farmers lost their land for house-building, farmland and forest land on which they depend for living. The Provincial Committee of the CPC and the Provincial Government attach great importance to the resettlement of these farmers. Based on the real conditions of Sichuan Province, the Provincial Committee of the CPC and the Provincial Government proposed the principle of “resettlement in the local neighbourhood, resettlement in adjacent places and resettlement in other places” and sought to solve the problem of resettlement by various means.
We mainly take the following three measures. The first is resettlement in the local neighbourhood and in adjacent places. Specifically, that means to adjust land allocation for the farmers first, and then arrange inter-team resettlement within the same village, inter-village resettlement within the same town, and inter-town resettlement within the same county. At the end of last year, we arranged resettlement by this means for 150 thousand farmers of over 50 thousand households who lost their land for house-building and farmland. The second is inter-county resettlement within the same city. We have completed resettlement for farmers of two towns in Qingchuan County of Guangyuan City and removed them to Jiange County and Yuanba District of that City. The last is inter-city or inter-prefecture resettlement in the Province. We have fixed Nanbaoshan Farm in Qionglai of Chengdu as the resettlement destination, and at present preliminary preparations are in progress. The governments of each region will also organize on-the-spot investigations by the farmers and accept voluntary applications.
The press’s supervision of the use of the funds for reconstruction is welcome.
Reporter with the Phoenix TV and the Phoenix Net: How the funds for reconstruction are used attracts the most concerns. It was previously reported that the government of Beichuan County used the funds to purchase an SUV, which has aroused great controversy. Now that the governments get the funds, how will they ensure the transparency of the use? In addition, can the governments reduce the administrative expenses by a certain proportion to eliminate the public doubt?
Wei Hong: We welcome the press’s supervision of the use of the funds for restoration.
The reconstruction programme in Sichuan needs 1.7 trillion yuan. Governmental funds cover about 360 billion yuan, while the rest requires banking credit support and social investment. We mainly take the following three measures to strengthen the supervision of the use of governmental funds. The first is to strengthen budget management.
Governmental funds that are intended for reconstruction will be incorporated into the budget and budgeted expenses will be presented by subjects, uses and standards. The second is to strengthen the management of special accounts. Financial departments at county level will be required to incorporate the funds for reconstruction into special account management and to have closed operation and separate accounting over the funds. The last is to strengthen special supervision. Supervising measures on the funds and projects in six aspects are formulated on the basis of the specific requirements for governmental funds in six aspects.
I can promise to the media in a responsible way that, since the funds of hundreds of billions in the period of earthquake relief have been used safely and effectively, the governmental funds for reconstruction will definitely be used safely and effectively likewise.
As for the purchase of an SUV by Beichuan County in earlier period mentioned just now, I would say that, the purchase was based on its own reason of the Beichuan Government and beyond budget, while Beichuan County was a severely stricken county in this earthquake. When the information was publicized, the Provincial Committee of the CPC and the Provincial Government made it clear that this purchase was beyond budget, inconsistent with relevant provisions, and inconsistent with relevant provisions on thrifty in Party and governmental organs. This car has been repurchased at the original price by a private enterprise. The County Committee of the CPC and the County Government have made a self-review in this regard to the Municipal Committee of the CPC and the Municipal Government of Manyang City, chief leaders of Beichuan County have been instructed and warned against this mistake and the responsible person has been punished. Here I would like to make it clear that, the funds for the purchase of the car in question was not and could not be funds for restoration, for the funds for reconstruction must be used for projects as programmed.
We must integrate resources throughout the Province to offer psychological service to all people in the earthquake-stricken areas.
Reporter with Japan NHK Television: My question concerns livelihood. The first question is how many movable plank houses were built in Sichuan Province? The second question is how many people need psychological treatment?
Wei Hong: Suffered such a natural catastrophe, cadres and the masses in the quake-hit areas are subject to psychological trauma, and since the psychological services and recovery will last quite a long period of time, the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee and Sichuan Provincial Government attach great importance to the psychological services for the quake-afflicted cadres and masses. First, psychological services workstations have been set up in the schools, towns and communities of the severely afflicted areas. Secondly, special psychological services have been provided for the key areas and key service targets. Thirdly, resources of psychological services in Sichuan have been integrated while efforts have also been made to attract the psychological service workers throughout the country to provide psychological services in the quake-hit areas. And fourthly, psychological services are also integrated with better cultural development.
Yang Hongbo (deputy to the 11th NPC, director of Sichuan Provincial Department of Construction): In the respect of board houses construction, there are totally 620,000 board houses in Sichuan which had been completed in three months, among which more than 400,000 are used for the transitional settlement of urban and rural residents while the rest are used for schools and hospitals. The urban and rural residents live in the board houses can safely see the winter out, and millions of students in the quake-hit areas can take classes in the board houses.
The tourist fundamentals in Sichuan are in good condition and Sichuan remains safe and beautiful.
Reporter with the Xinhua News Agency: Sichuan is a province with abundant tourist resources. How much is the decrease in the number of overseas tourists since the earthquake of last year? What proactive measures will be adopted on this year’s sales promotion in the overseas market? And how long is it expected to take for tourism to be recovered to the level before the earthquake?
Liu Jie (director of Sichuan Provincial Development and Reform Commission): The influences and destructions of Wenchuan earthquake on Sichuan’s tourism are great; the infrastructure and landscapes in 361 scenic spots as well as a set of important tourist access facilities were damaged. The CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee and Sichuan Provincial Government attach great importance to the restoration and reconstruction of tourism. First, we strive to restore and reconstruct the tourist infrastructure, and now most scenic spots are recovered. Second, we try to rebuild the confidence in safety tourism. The earthquake dampened the tourists’ confidence in safety, which has a great influence on the tourism. And third, the National Tourism Administration and Sichuan Provincial Tourism Administration closed some scenic spots so as to completely eliminate the hidden dangers after the earthquake.
Through this period of restoration and reconstruction, major tourist attractions have been reopened successively, and the recovery of tourism is better than we expected. After the earthquake, the negative growth rate of tourism in Sichuan was over 30%, and the total tourist revenue in Sichuan last year was 109.15 billion yuan, a year-on-year decrease of 11.3%. However, the tourism in Sichuan recovers rapidly that the total tourist revenue in Sichuan in January got a 40% increase and it maintained the same sound growth momentum in February.
Wei Hong: I can tell you definitely that after the earthquake, the tourist fundamentals in Sichuan are still in good condition and Sichuan remains safe and beautiful. During the golden week of the Spring Festival, the number of tourists to Sichuan had a year-on-year increase of 21.9%, and the tourist revenue got a year-on-year increase of 32.8%. We welcome all media friends and, through you, we’d also love to welcome friends home and abroad to Sichuan.
The earthquake is the major reason for the damage of facilities.
Reporter with Commercial Radio Hong Kong: As for the “jerry-built projects”, has the investigation by the Provincial Government found the existence of the “jerry-built projects” among the collapsed schools and hospitals? If yes, how will the problems be tackled? Those parents who lost their children are unsatisfied with the answers concerning the “jerry-built projects”, what’s you response for that?
Wei Hong: After the occurrence of the serious Wenchuan earthquake, experts from the Architecture Design College of Tsinghua University, China Academy of Building Research and the authoritative agencies in Sichuan Province formed an investigation team and carried out on-site investigation on the schools and other important facilities in the quake-hit areas. The conclusive opinion of the diagnosis was that the high magnitude and intensity of the Wenchuan earthquake are the most direct and the main reason for the collapse of schools and the damage of other facilities. The actual intensity of the earthquake was one or two magnitudes higher than the earthquake-proof intensity of all the schools in the quake-hit areas then.
Of course, with the different modes of action of the earthquake at different areas as well as the different geographical positions of the facilities, the damage of some schools, hospitals and public cultural and sports facilities was different. However, the conclusive opinion of the authoritative scientific research departments was that the earthquake was the fundamental cause of the severe damage of the public service facilities including schools and the industrial and mining enterprises. The CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee and Sichuan Government respect science and deal with the work in such aspect according to this conclusive opinion.
The target of Sichuan’s economic growth this year is 9%.
Reporter with the CCTV: What is the target of economic growth set by Sichuan this year? What is the most crucial link for achieving the objective? And where is the confidence from?
Wei Hong: According to the foundation of the economic and social development in Sichuan and the condition of the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction, we put forward the objective of 9% increase in the total production in Sichuan this year. We believe the objective of 9% increase for Sichuan is well based. The important part of Sichuan’s rapid development is the main task of the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction; therefore, Sichuan Government decides to expand domestic demand and increase input, and strives to invest in three years the governmental fund of 800 billion yuan and the social and nongovernmental fund of 3 trillion yuan so as to ensure the accelerated development of Sichuan. Among the 3 trillion yuan investment of expanding the domestic demand, the input requirement of the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction is 1.7 trillion yuan. And among the 800 billion yuan of the governmental fund for expanding the domestic demand, about 360 billion yuan will be used for the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction. In addition to the investment on the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction, there are another two important aspects for accelerating the economic development in Sichuan. One is expanding the projects of people’s livelihood which mainly aim at the final consumption especially the residents’ consumption, such as “Eight Projects of People’s Livelihood”, “Projects of Enriching People and Well-beings” and “Action Plans for the Settlement of Herdsmen”, and take the projects of people’s livelihood to promote the domestic demand. The other is concentrating on the key projects, which are mainly key industrial projects, key infrastructure projects and key projects of people’s livelihood. Our province has identified 500 key projects with the total investment of 2 trillion yuan, and the investment of this year will reach 280 billion yuan.
The earthquake ruins must be preserved and the spirit of earthquake relief must be recorded.
Reporter with Beijing Review: Can you sum up the education of disasters for children after the earthquake? Now some local officials in Beichuan call for developing the seismic industry and develop products in relation to the earthquake, what’s your comment on such suggestions?
Wei Hong: The trauma brought to us by the Wenchuan Earthquake is severe and the lesson is profound. I believe this is not only the education of disasters for our children but also for the governmental and social organizations; we can sum up the methods to cope with such catastrophic natural disasters in the future from various angles and perspectives. The success of earthquake relief won us extensive acclaim. And we should reflect on and sum up the work especially from the mechanism level and help children learn how to respond to natural disasters.
Among the ten aspects of the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction, an important one is the construction of the spiritual homeland, which was incorporated into the general plan of the State Council for the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction. And it is very important to preserve some necessary earthquake ruins and construct the memorial facilities which can fully demonstrate the great spirit of earthquake relief. Therefore, not only in Beichuan but also in Yingxiu, Qingchuan, Dongqi Co.Ltd., etc. the protective and preservative construction of some earthquake ruins will be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the plan for constructing the spiritual homeland.
The newly added hidden dangers of geological disasters should be prevented and controlled.
Reporter with China Meteorology: Sichuan is the region with frequent natural disasters, especially after the earthquake, secondary disasters such as the mud-rock flow caused by rainstorms cause more easily threatens to people’s life and propertyr. What plan and detailed measures will Sichuan adopt to prevent and control the disasters? And now we advocate the emergency response mechanism of disaster prevention and reduction which is government-led, department-coordinated and people-participated, so would you please tell us how to maximize the efficiency of disaster prevention from the perspective of the government?
Wei Hong: Due to the terrain, topography and physiognomy, Sichuan has always been the region with the most serious disasters. The earthquake brought about 13,000 hidden dangers in the 44 counties with frequent geological disasters, and over 8,000 sites with hidden dangers of geological disasters in 39 extremely severely afflicted counties and severely afflicted counties. The government currently focuses on the following work: First, continue to carry out the overall survey of the hidden dangers of geological disasters; second, speed up the management work of severe geological disasters, especially the management of the hidden dangers of geological disasters which may threaten the people and industrial and mining enterprises; third, carry out the removal and resettlement of more than 18,000 households affected by the hidden dangerous sites of geological disasters to avoid the dangers. We will, in accordance with the general plan of the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction, strengthen the prevention and management of geological disasters, and control the geological disasters in order of importance and urgency.
Thanks to the brotherly provinces and municipalities for their one-to-one aid
Reporter with Guangdong South Television Station: After the occurrence of the severe Wenchuan earthquake, Guangdong was one of the provinces providing assistance on construction, helped build a large number of movable board houses, and accepted the quake-afflicted children from Sichuan to Guangdong for medical treatment and schooling. What we concern most is the effectiveness of such aid. And for these quake-afflicted people, has such assistance brought the effects that they needed?
Wei Hong: During the earthquake relief period, Sichuan got the support from people all over the country, and the aid from other provinces and municipalities including Guangdong. And then during the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction period, governments at various provincial and municipal levels devoted their best financial power and human resources even when they had their own difficulties to provide great aid to us including the one-to-one aid on construction. According to the arrangement of the State Council, 18 provinces and municipalities have identified with us more than 1980 aided construction projects, among which 44% have been launched. On the one-to-one aid of construction, we mainly focus on the choice of aided construction projects and the implementation of the construction in accordance with plan.
The one-to-one aided construction projects are various, including the projects of people’s livelihood, development projects, as well as the projects of school facilities, hospital facilities and public cultural and sports facilities. Such aid plays an important role in the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction and the people’s production and livelihood in the quake-hit areas. We are grateful to you. And please extend our gratitude to Guangdong people.